Welcome back to yet another riveting week of BCM210 Blogs! To lead us into this weeks blog discussion, let us engage in a little bit of trivia. Did you know (you probably do) that the term ethics derives from the Greek work ethos, meaning character. How interesting is that! Well, it’s not really that interesting, BUT it is relevant to what i am about to bore you for the next 500 words about. So sit back, drink a nice cup of English Breakfast and whatever you do, please don’t word count. Mucho Gracias.
Thank you Michael Scott for that lovely GIF. So this week I will be discussing the importance of ethics in research, a highly debated and polarizing subject. Let us bring ourselves back to when I mentioned that ethics derives from ethos, which means character. The very essence of ethics is character, which fundamentally means that the moral integrity of the researcher, his/her questions and intentions is the very core within the ethics of research.
The importance of ethics in research is sadly highlighted in the case of Nazi war “research” conducted during the Nazi reign between 1933-1945. During this period, grotesque research into the mental, physical and cultural aspects of people were explored; all of which was ethnically motivated and conducted so the “research” would scientifically show that Germans were superior to many. Due to this, the Nuremberg Code was created in 1949, a code of ethics that states that all research participation must be voluntary. This was followed by the Declaration of Helsinki in 1964, that declared that all biomedical research involving humans must assess the impact on the subjects against the benefits and to minimise the costs (health risks) for the participants.
Another tragic instance is the Tuskegee Syphilis Study of 1932. Conducted by the U.S. Public Health System to examine untreated cases of latent syphilis, 400 infected African American males were recruited unknowingly to test the effects of the disease. While the men were already infected prior to the research, the men were not aware of the true nature of the research and that, by 1947, vaccines were readily available to end the disease. Tragically, the research went on until 1972, when whistleblowers led to national media and public outrage, prompting the federal government to terminate the research immediately. In 1997, President Clinton made a public apology with surviving members on the White House, saying
“What was done cannot be undone. But we can end the silence. We can stop turning our heads away. We can look at you in the eye and finally say on behalf of the American people, what the United States government did was shameful, and I am sorry … To our African American citizens, I am sorry that your federal government orchestrated a study so clearly racist.”
And on that sombre note, I feel that such tragic incidents have highlighted the incredible importance of ethical research. Research is a pioneering aspect of human nature, but so is compassion, kindness and moral integrity; and as such, should all be critical aspects of maintaining the paramount importance of ethics in research.
Stay Classy UOW,
Anon, (2015). [online] http://www.sagepub.com/upm-data/34088_Chapter4.pdf [Accessed 27th March. 2015]
Clinton4.nara.gov, (1997). Apology For Study Done in Tuskegee. [online] Available at: http://clinton4.nara.gov/textonly/New/Remarks/Fri/19970516-898.html [Accessed 27th March. 2015]
Sciencemuseum.org.uk, (2015). Tuskegee Syphilis Study. [online] Available at: http://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/broughttolife/techniques/tuskegee.aspx [Accessed 1 Apr. 2015].