Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Painful look back at Willowbrook

Last year, the federal government made the unprecedented step of apologizing for the infamous medical study where US government researchers were instructed to "deliberately infect prison inmates in Guatemala with syphilis."

In a joint statement from last October, Secretary Clinton and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius acknowledged and expressed deep regret for the horrific experiments.
"Although these events occurred more than 64 years ago, we are outraged that such reprehensible research could have occurred under the guise of public health. We deeply regret that it happened, and we apologize to all the individuals who were affected by such abhorrent research practices."
But more information and an additional mea culpa may be forthcoming as the federal government just yesterday announced the formation of an "International Research Panel to consider the standards for protecting human subjects in scientific studies."

The request to form this commission allegedly came directly from President Obama himself in the wake of the recent revelations of Guatemala. The primary goal of the commission will be to assess current standards and rules involving the research of human subjects.

But also, the commission will include a "fact-finding investigation into the 1946-48 research" which includes the disturbing experiments done at the Willowbrook State School on Staten Island.

An Associated Press look at old medical journals uncovered the following:
At nearby Staten Island, from 1963 to 1966, a controversial medical study was conducted at the Willowbrook State School for children with mental retardation. The children were intentionally given hepatitis orally and by injection to see if they could then be cured with gamma globulin.
As the AP story mentions, some of these studies were covered by the media, but only with the mention of finding new cures. Some clarification of the facts and an apology for Willowbrook may soon be coming from the US government.


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