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Medical experiments

U.S. government wants to begin using prisoners for medical experiments

Thursday, July 13, 2006 by: NewsTarget
Tags: medical experiments, medical ethics, prison populations


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(NewsTarget) A new report by the Institute of Medicine recommends easing current restrictions on the use of prisoners in medical experiments to allow inmates to "benefit" from clinical trials.

Critics of the plan cite past abuses of prisoners by pharmaceutical companies and medical researchers as reasons to keep rigid restrictions on medical experimentation in place. About 300 former inmates have sued Penn drug researcher Albert Kligman for allegedly experimenting on them in 1964 with infectious agents, dioxin, radioactive isotopes and psychotropic drugs. Inmates were told the chemicals they were testing were harmless.

Following the Holmesburg scandal, the federal government placed strict limitations on performing medical experiments on prisoners, but the new Institute of Medicine report suggests prisoners should once again be used to test therapies in the final phase of FDA approval, as long as the trials do not involve cosmetic toxicity testing, and half the trial members are not inmates.

However, the Holmesburg prisoners represent only one of many cases of government-sponsored abuse at the hands of medical researchers. According to extensive NewsTarget.com research (http://www.newstarget.com/019189.html), prisoners have been experimented on with everything from malaria and hepatitis to cancer and cholera. Cases of performing vivisections on live prisoners have even been reported.

Ernest D. Prentice, chair of the Institute of Medicine's advisory board, says the current regulations "were written in an era of protectionism -- that taking part in research was bad and (prisoners) needed to be protected. We don't have that same view anymore."

Temple University professor Allen M. Hornblum, author of "Acres of Skin," which details the experiments performed at Holmesburg, says prisoners should not be used in medical experiments, and that the new report "is like putting (on) the Good Housekeeping seal, saying it's now okay to do some of these things."

However, the Institute's committee members say past mistakes in medical experimentation must be learned from and moved past. The report also says that with the prison population booming, prisoners are in need of new medicines that could help treat diseases from hepatitis to AIDS.

Pharmaceutical companies typically recruit poor people for medical experiments, but with the number of drug experiments on the rise, and with fewer people willing to voluntarily participate in such trials, opening the prison population to medical experimentation would allow drug companies access to a huge population of low-cost guinea pigs.

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