Unethical Human Experimentation Should be Outlawed

Human experimentation has been in practice for centuries and it was not until recently that it has been questioned. By definition human experimentation is when a researcher deliberately induces or alters a person’s physical or mental functions. Human experimentation is preformed in ways that might prove therapeutic to the patient, but for which there is as yet insufficient evidence to make this reasonably certain. It can also be preformed in ways that will not be of any conceivable benefit to the particular patient, but which may advance scientific knowledge and human welfare. Although many wonderful medical discoveries have been made through human experimentation, it is also filled with many examples of unethical abuses of patients and their overall well being. Therefore, human experimentation should be refined to make more safe and ethical experiments.
There are many ways human experimentation can be unethical. Most experiments where humans were used prove to be unethical due to abuse by the researcher who is conducting the experiment. Populations used for the experiments are often times chosen unethically. Researchers commonly choose populations that are easy to exploit. They choose prisoners, children, mentally ill, or patients on their deathbeds. All of these populations give consent to experiments based on little knowledge or because they believe their life has no purpose. Researchers should be choosing populations that understand the meaning of consent and what it means to be involved in a particular experiment.
There are many reasons why choosing prisoners, children, mentally ill, and patients on their deathbeds is unethical. According to Susan Sherwin, professor of philosophy and women’s studies at Dalhousie University and also coeditor of Moral Problems in Medicine, “Most bioethicists agree, for instance, that research on prisoners is questionable even if they offer consent, because the range of autonomous choice available to them is so restricted that their consent may not be meaningful” (161). Prisoners who choose to be involved in medical experiments are doing so with little information and for the wrong reasons.
Children can also be involved in experiments with the consent of their parents. According to James B. Nelson, professor of Christian ethics at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities, and Jo Anne Smith Rohricht, board member of the United Church of Christ Advisory Board on Health and Human Services, “Experiments entailing substantial risk to children are not justified even if the parents give consent” (75). Researchers should not be allowed to perform experiments on children if they have the knowledge that it will most likely result in risk to the child’s health or well being.
Patients on their deathbeds should not be allowed to participate in medical experiments. Nelson and Rohricht acknowledged, “To die in dignity means that one has conscious control over one’s own personal responses to the dying process. An experiment which intrudes on this personal hour can be inhumanly exploitative” (77). There is no need to include dying patients in experiments because they may not even be able to finish the procedure. Researchers who do this are taking respect away from the patient and not looking out for their well being.
Many times in medical experiments, researchers forget to take into consideration the well being and safety of their patients. They get so wrapped up in their experiment that they think of their patients as mere objects. Nelson and Rohricht admit, “Misuse comes when a subject is seen as an object of the investigator’s control, when the subject is a means to an end in which that person cannot have voluntary share but for which a heavy personal price might have to be paid” (71). In experiments, patients trust in their doctors and assume that their doctors will still pay close attention to their health. Even in procedures where the experiment is meant to improve the overall health of the patient there are no guarantees, it is still just an experiment. Sherwin believes, “Even in so-called therapeutic research, where subjects have some hope of personal benefit, no assurances can be offered to the patient-subjects as long as the treatment being evaluated is experimental” (160). Patients are often fooled into being part of experiments because they think that they will be cured of their illness. Researchers need to take more responsibility