Tag Archives: Presidential Commission Bioethics

“Ethically impossible”, report of US Presidential Bioethics Commission on STD Guatemala Study. An instance of history of medicine shaping the bioethics agenda.

The “Ethically Impossible” report concludes, unsurprisingly, that many of the actions of the investigators of the study “disregarded principles widely accepted as applicable across time, as well as the standards of our own time that are embodied in the ethics and regulation of biomedical research today”. The Report also aims to reassure insofar as “the Guatemala experiments could not be approved under the current system for protecting human subjects in US-funded research”.

This story can be read as a contemporary instance of the history of medicine shaping and informing the current bioethics agenda at the highest level. While the ethical conclusions of the report are, perhaps necessarily, neither surprising nor particularly original, the work of the Commission was the necessary corollary of the public apology delivered by both Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, and represents an extremely valuable and extensive historical assessment of the ‘research study’. Continue reading

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