|Congressional Hearings on the Quality of Health Care and Human Experimentation were held in response to public concern about ethical problems in the way medical and social science research was being conducted. This is a partial list:
Willowbrook Hepatitis Study, 1950’s:
To understand issues related to the transmission of the hepatitis virus in mentally retarded children who were residents in the Willowbrook State School. The study designed involved intentionally infecting healthy children with hepatis by feeding them a solution made from the feces of children with active hepatitis.
Jewish Chronic Disease Studies, 1960s:
Experiments were performed on chronically ill, mostly demented patients in the Jewish Chronic Disease Hospital. The purpose of the research was to determine how a weakened immune system influenced the spread of cancer. To evaluate this, live cancer cells were injected into the blood stream of the subjects.
Milgram Studies of Obedience of Authority, 1960’s:
The purpose of the Milgram studies was to understand why people follow the directions of authority figures even when they are told to do things that are cruel or unethical. Subjects were instructed to deliver, at increasingly higher intensities, shocks to others. After they were “debriefed”, subjects complained of extreme psychological distress after understanding the potentially lethal level of shocks administered.
San Antonio Contraceptive Study, 1970’s:
The purpose of this study was to determine the efficacy of different kinds of contraceptive pills. The clinic served predominantly indigent patients who had no other place to go for contraceptive advice or medication. The randomized design meant some patients received a placebo. As expected, there were a high number of unplanned pregnancies in the placebo group.
Tearoom Trade Study, 1970’s:
Social scientist, Laud Humphries posed as a “watch queen” outside public restrooms, where people gathered to engage in anonymous homosexual behavior. He recorded the license plate numbers and other identifying information, which he used to obtain their names and addresses. He then presented himself at their homes to interview them about their background and family life. Many subjects were living with their family in a situation where it would be devastating to reveal information about homosexual activity. At no time did the subjects understand they were participating in a study about homosexuality. In his published reports, the level of detail was such that the identify of some of the subjects becomes known.