Using Inmates as Medical Guinea Pigs
The New York Times today reports on recommendations for loosening federal regulations on using experimental drugs on prison inmates made in June by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences at the request of the the Department of Health and Human Services' Office for Human Research Protections.
Under current regulations, passed in 1978, prisoners can participate in federally financed biomedical research if the experiment poses no more than "minimal" risks to the subjects. But a report formally presented to federal officials on Aug. 1 by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences advised that experiments with greater risks be permitted if they had the potential to benefit prisoners. As an added precaution, the report suggested that all studies be subject to an independent review.
This is a sensitive area, particularly for those who recall what happened at Holmesburg prison in Philadelphia between 1951 and 1974 and even worse, the Tuskegee syphilis studies, both of which prompted the current regulations.
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