Science at Any Cost?:The Ethics of the Use of Unethically Derived But Valid Experimental Data
I think that the title of my blog thread "Science at Any Cost?:The Ethics of the Use of Unethically Derived But Valid Experimental Data" tells it all. But what is the answer? History provides examples of such experiments both in Nazi Germany and other parts of the world and in earlier years even within the United States.
Martin T Donohoe, MD, FACP, a physician-ethicist, wrote the following scenario and a series of questions to a bioethics listserv which challenges the reader to think out what would be ethical responses to the questions. Martin has given me permission to post his scenario and questions here. I am sure that we both would be interested in reading my visitors responses. ..Maurice.
You are editor of a highly prestigious, well-read medical journal. A paper is submitted from "investigators" living in a country with a horrible human rights record. The investigators deliberately gave 100 women breast cancer, and waited for metastases to form. They then used a new treatment, first tested in animals, in a placebo-controlled trial wherein 50 women received placebo and 50 received the new treatment. Only 5 of the placebo-treated patients survived after 3 years, whereas 45 of the drug-treated women survived and were confirmed disease-free. Record keeping was excellent, all scans/lab reports, path slides, etc have been submitted, and the data appear solid.
Would you publish the results?
If so, would you publish them with an editorial saying how bad this is?
Would you make the information available to the press but not publish the data?
What if that led to enormous profits for these "investigators'" clinic consequent to clinical visits, esp from desperate yet wealthy patients? (Assume the government would have no interest in cracking down on these "scientists," possibly because they could skim off the top of the enormous amounts of money that could be made)
If not, would you use the information if you or your wife or mother had breast cancer, if you could procure the drug in question?
Would it make any difference if the women in the study freely consented? Were paid an amount equal, say, to 10 times their potential lifetime earnings?