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The field of medicine has been one, where many events have been unrolling but communications about the happenings have to a greater extent been one-sided. Ideally, the people who participate in this field are entrusted with greater responsibility of taking care of mankind by conducting out research in medicine that would help improve the living standard or rather ensure the survival of man. Studies that have been carried out in this field have, however, revealed the great deal of untold stories, which include some of the worst thing that an individual would indulge in. Studying the book “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” acted as an eye opener to the real world of medicine. The question that kept bothering me was why and how such awful action were done by people who are supposed to take care of the patients. My little knowledge of what happens in the human experimentation was mainly complemented by unethical behaviors that have characterized human experimentation history. Though every person is assured of the right to live, it’s different to others, “The right to live must be earned and justified, not dogmatically assumed” (Park 112). The scope of this paper is to point out the dark side of the medical science. Medicine field has been transformed by commerce, “just as ethos of trust opened a window of deception in internet, so it opened a window of deception in medicine” (Elliott 16).To explore this I will first reveal the bright side of medical science by looking at the operation of early medicine.
Throughout the history, sickness has been considered mostly as Will of Gods, possessed by demons, witchcraft or caused by unknown reasons. Thus, people prayed to God or followed the folk remedies. Fortunately, these traditions did not last for long after the civilization had been established in places like Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greek and Romans. Although people believed the mysterious illness was caused by wrath of Gods, and worked with magician, their knowledge of medicals definitely made great steps in medical science. Medicine was in use in Greek for a thousand years, preceding the birth of Christ. For example, Greek soldiers would be treated by doctors during wars.
To ensure proper behavior through moral constraints, fundamental structures of medicine were made so that to include Hippocrates and Hippocratic Oaths. Hippocrates is symbol of modern medicine, like Father of Medicine and his Oath that every doctor MUST know. The oath was established in 5th Century B.C. and it was mandatory for physicians to take this oath before practicing medicine. Particularly, it requires "swearing to do no harm to one's patients" (Human Experimentation 42). For that reason, every physician would have followed the oath and performed their medical intellect on patients without harming them.
It is apparent that the medicine science has, since then, contributed immensely to mankind and these credits can be attached to such parameters as increased life span, reduced infant deaths among others. These contributions can be related to different invention and research work that have brought in market new drugs such as antibiotics and vaccines, penicillin.
The question that comes to mind is whether the Oaths really had an impact on the physician. To explore this, I will look at a few characters who acted otherwise from people’s expectations even after having taken the oaths.
Dr. Henry H. Holmes
Dr. Henry H. Holmes, born in 1860, is a good example of those individuals who can be used to bring the dark side picture of medical science. He had a Hotel at Chicago, which he had turned into a “slaughter house” of hundreds of guests that he would trap there. The Hotel was opened in 1893 and served in provision of World’s Colombian Exhibition. It was eventually dubbed as the “The Castle of Death” (Trueman 59).
The victims in the Holmes’ inhuman activities included his lovers, guests and employees. He would do this by use of the same advancement and inventions that were done in the medicine field. He would, for example, lock some victims in a soundproof bedroom filled with some gas and asphyxiate them at his own comfort. He would lock others in a bank vault near his office, where they would succumb to death as a result of suffocations.
After the death of the victims he would do everything possible, so as to obtain their skeletons. Some would be put in pits of lime, while others were cremated to ensure complete destructions of corpses. He also had a secret chute in the basement, where he would secretly take the dead. Here, he would make skeleton models out of them, which he would, then, sell to medical schools. This way, he would make a lot of money.
A person who was entrusted to take care of the patients is said to have killed around 230 people, though only 27 of them were verified by police. Latter, Dr. Henry H. Holmes was hanged as a result of the brutal crimes that he had executed.
Dr. John Bodkin Adams
Adam was suspected of having executed 160 deaths of patients who had died in suspicious circumstances. Adam was, however, arrested in 1957 for allegations of having murdered Mrs. Edith Morrell who had innocently entrusted her health on him. He was accused of having given Mrs. Morrell lethal doses of heroin, barbiturates, sedormil and morphine. He, however, claimed that Morrell succumbed to her death as a result of stroke. However, he is said to have organized for her crimination the same day that she died. Adam is believed to have gained immensely from untimely death of Mrs. Morrell by obtaining a Rolls Royce Silver Ghost, money and an antique chest, filled with silver. Further claims related to the billing that he had made to her estate. For the 300 times that he had visited her in the course of treatment, he had billed them as 1100 visit, which was a scandalous and greedy move.
The second well known victim of Dr. Adam is Gertrude Hullet who died in 1956. She was found to have two times as much lethal dose in her urine than required. From investigations, conducted on deaths that had occurred between 1939 and 1956, 10 suspicious cases, involving patients who had died under care of Dr. Adam, were identified. Though he was not convicted of any of these cases, he was later convicted due to different distasteful behaviors, including force statements on cremation forms that he prepared and forging of prescriptions.
Jones acted as a nurse from San Antonio and was hired by different medical clinics, specialized in community care to protect the young children of Texas but she, in turn, turned wild and murdered them. She seemed to agree that “Killing a disabled infant is not morally equivalent to killing a person: very often it is not wrong at all,” (Skloot 76). She made use of lethal injections of succinylcholine and insulin to execute the murders and she is believed to have killed between 11 and 46 infants between 1980 and 1982. The failure to know the exact number of death result from the Texas hospital destroying her employment records to avoid excessive embarrassments or additional trials. Jones was finally charged with two accounts of murder and she is serving a jail term.
When a statement is made to the effect that nurses are “angles of mercy”, it would be different for Cullen. He confessed in 2003 that for the preceding 16 years in which he had served in 10 different hospitals, he had killed 45 patients. He executed the murders by use of digoxin and insulin. The suspicion on Cullen began when he was found having interest to the patients who were not assigned to him to an extent of accessing their records. He would also ask for medication for patients who were not assigned to him. He explained that he did this to protect patients from “coding”. His motives were to end the patients suffering and stop the hospital from dehumanizing them.
The above examples give account of individuals who had taken the “Oath” to protect the patients but latter turned against them and terminated their lives. Other activities, however, are effected in a more organized manner, sometimes even with the collaboration of the medical authorities and yet morally unacceptable or unethical, "to improve black health and even demonstrate effective methods of treating syphilis… blacks were affected” (Thomas 238) These dark part of the medical science are mainly present in developed countries such as USA, where intensive research are being conducted, and hence, the needs for human medical experimentations.
Human experimentation is an activity that includes subjecting human beings to science experiments so as to confirm the functioning of a certain drug. These experimentations are, in most cases, painful, cruel, deadly and obviously dangerous to human health.
U.S. is in record for having made undoubted scientific breakthroughs. In the field of medicine, such breakthroughs have had a greater contribution in mankind welfare across the globe. These include advancements such as coming up with the cure for malaria. Despite the advancements, it has amounted into a hefty cost to the individuals who are used in the experimentation of the scientific findings.
Over the last few centuries, some of the victims of human experimentation have been compensated, while others have not, even after getting damages in terms of their physical and emotional health. Some have also died by unwittingly or unwillingly participating in human experimentation and no compensations have been done.
A recent investigation by the Obama administration involving the Presidential Commission on matters relating to bioethical issues have helped shine some aspects of the darker and disturbing history of U.S. pharmaceutical companies. A group of American researcher, supported by the government, purposefully infected 1300 people with STD in Guatemala, including syphilis and gonorrhea. The team to Guatemala was headed by Dr. John Cutler and was aimed at testing the newly discovered penicillin on its effectiveness in prevention of STD (Thomas 224). The main participants in the experiments were prostitutes, prisoners, soldiers and the mentally ill who were infected with STDs without their consents.
According to the President Commission, only less than 700 of the infected who were later treated for the infections. However, the adequacy of the treatment remains unknown. Out of those infected, the commission was able to establish the death of 83 of them. From the research, it’s evident that the medical science has gone overboard in setting their priorities ((Thomas 237). A major focus seems to be on researcher’s own advancements, while human protection and decency come to the far second.
Investigations by the commission seem to give a clear view point of how worse situations have been in the past for some innocent citizens. The achievements of this investigation were possible because of the discovery of the Dr. Cutler’s files done by Wellesley College medical historian; otherwise, the stories would have remained in the darkness.
Among the most pathetic cases was a female who had previously been infected with syphilis. Instead of the researchers treating the illness that they had deliberately introduced to her, they infected her eyes including other orifices with gonorrhea to quest their curiosity of the effects of double infection. To be able to come up with a better measure, they even gave her some additional syphilis infections. The woman later died by the end of 6 months.
In a similar case, 7 women suffering from epilepsy and residing in a mental health facilities were infected with syphilis. This information was not communicated to their subject and they eventually suffered from bacterial meningitis. These experiments did not provide any benefits because they were unable to derive any substantial knowledge from the depraved and cruel experiments. In any case, they confirmed “Those hopeless ones who should never have been born –Nature’s mistakes –” (Park 124).
Dr. Cutler was involved in other series of experiments, including the Tuskegee experiments in Alabama, from which large number of Africa American were infected and left untreated for syphilis. This would happen without seeking their consent, and hence, a form of human right violations. These kinds of atrocities were practiced until 1972, when the public outcry worn attention and the experiments stopped.
From the Commission’s finding, it is important to reassess the ethical obligations that participant in the medical science have to the entire human race. The attempt to conduct human experiments is still being executed by pharmaceutical firms, operating in the industry. This is especially being conducted among the poor from the third world country and in most cases to the unknowing individuals. It’s important to provide more light to such ethical flaws against people, regardless of their socio-economic status or race.
The whole dark side of the medical science may not be exhausted that easily because the available information is not all there and also because these are deeds that have been executed by individuals and, sometimes, the governments may have played a critical role. In the history of U.S. medical science, the inhumane acts extended to innocent people of all ages and status.
These may include cases, where children were injected with radioactive substances. There are instances, where the mentally ill people were locked in giant refrigerator, while the children suffering from similar problems were infected with hepatitis deliberately (Rebecca 66). Other unbelievable cases include instances, where the government employees, hired to provide important services such security, were exposed to mistreatment and risks. There are cases, where the military people were exposed to the chemical weapons.
At the first instance, these stories seem to be fictional but there is empirical evidence in support of each event. This is really an eye opener to the dark side of medical science, which for long has been credited with breakthroughs that have benefitted mankind. However, the dark side shows some elements of greed and personal interest (Christianson 59). There is need to transform the entire medical science away from Madison Grant’s idea that “The laws of nature require the obliteration of the unfit and human life is valuable only when it is of use to the community or race” (Trueman 44). Substantial attention must be placed to ensure that these kinds of animosities are brought into a halt.