Unethical Doctor-Pharma Experiments

"The Israel Defense Forces will provide the ethics bureau of the Israeli Medical Association with all the details of secret experimental anthrax vaccine trials it carried out on over 800 soldiers since 1999. A committee will be established to probe whether the trials adhered to World Medical Association ethical requirements relating to human clinical trials as set out in the Helsinki Declaration....Years after the receiving the experimental Israeli vaccine, soldiers continued to suffer unexplained skin tumors, severe lung infections, serious migraine headaches, bronchitis and even epilepsy symptoms.....One of the soldiers who took part in the experiment told Uvda "They said that one group would receive the American vaccine, and the other group would receive the experimental Israel vaccine. "They specifically explained to us that the vaccine is not dangerous and that we were not being injected with the actual virus, not even the dead virus. Instead, they said they would inject us with the altered DNA of the virus. They said it was very advanced," added the soldier." - Yuval Azulai, Israel Haaretz

"The federal government is undertaking the most ambitious set of studies ever mounted under a controversial arrangement that allows researchers to conduct some kinds of medical experiments without first getting patients' permission.......We will never know the best way to treat people unless we do this research. And the only way we can do this research, since the person is unconscious, is without consent," said Myron L. Weisfeldt of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, who is overseeing the project. "Even if there are family members present, they know their loved one is dying. The ambulance is there. The sirens are going off. You can't possibly imagine gaining a meaningful informed consent from someone under those circumstances." ............."This just seems like lazy investigators not wanting to try to get informed consent in situations where it is difficult to get it, so they say it is impossible," said George J. Annas, a Boston University bioethicist. "I don't think we should use people like this." Annas was particularly disturbed that children as young as 15 might be included in the research. "Suppose a 15-year-old child is in the back of a car that is in a terrible accident," Annas said. "The EMTs arrive and say: 'We are doing an experiment with two techniques. We think they are about equal. Is it okay if we flip a coin to see how we treat your son? Or would you rather we just give him the treatment we think is best?' Unless you think all parents would have the EMTs flip a coin, consent here is necessary." - Rob Stein, Washington Post , May 27, 2007

"The [Nigerian] government alleges that Pfizer researchers selected 200 children and infants from crowds at a makeshift epidemic camp in Kano and gave about half of the group an untested antibiotic called Trovan. Researchers gave the other children what the lawsuit describes as a dangerously low dose of a comparison drug made by Hoffman-LaRoche. Nigerian officials say Pfizer's actions resulted in the deaths of an unspecified number of children and left others deaf, paralyzed, blind or brain- damaged.......Parents were banned from the ward where the drug trial occurred, the suit says, and the company left no medical records in Nigeria. Pfizer and its doctors "agreed to do an illegal act," the criminal charges state, and behaved "in a manner so rash and negligent as to endanger human life." - Joe Stephens, The Washington Post , May 30, 2007

"The former head of China's top food and drug safety agency was sentenced to death today after pleading guilty to corruption and accepting bribes.....the government said that while serving the agency he took bribes worth about $800,000 in exchange for approving drug production licenses. Worried that many of those drugs may be substandard, China is now reviewing over 170,000 production licenses issued by his agency over the past decade." - David Barboza, The New York Times ,May 29, 2007

"The number of drug marketing presentatioins delivered by doctors across the United States rose nearly threefold between 1998 and 2006, according to Verispan, a company that tracks drug marketing efforts. In some cases, consulting doctors are so well recognized that they offer drug makers far more than the chance to influence their own prescriptions. For drug makers, among the most prized consultants are those who write guidelines instructing their peers about how to use drugs......Drug companies are like lions," Dr. Grimm said of his sponsored talks. "For lions, it's their nature to kill zebras and eat them. For drug companies, it's their nature to make money. They're not really trying to improve anybody's health except if it makes them money.......A 2002 survey found that more than 80 percent of the doctors on panels that write clinical practice guidelines have financial ties to drug makers. "It is critical that the experts who write clinical guidelines be prohibited from having any conflicts of interest," said Dr. Marcia Angell, a former editor of The New England Journal of Medicine. "Since they have no data themselves but are just making judgments based on their expertise, they absolutely must be impartial or it undermines the whole enterprise." - Gardiner Harris and Janet Roberts, New York Times , May 21, 2007

Barbara Loe Fisher Commentary:

We have trusted medical doctors, government health officials and medical researchers to protect us individually and collectively from harm. We are conditioned from childhood to view educated health care professionals inside and outside of government as acting selflessly in our best interest because they are supposed to be dedicated to protecting and preserving human life.

In the past quarter century, medical doctors employed by government and the pharmaceutical industry have used ideology and the public trust to persuade citizens, without giving them informed consent, to take licensed or experimental drugs and vaccines. In some cases, they have wielded their power and influence to force children and adults to use vaccines and drugs they know have the potential to kill and injure. And when harm is caused, these same doctors and government officials either deny responsibility for the harm done or justify it in service to the "greater good."

There is a disturbing pattern of compromised ethical standards among too many medical doctors and government health officials, who are being lured into financial relationships with drug companies making and selling pharmaceutical products. The public trust, once freely given to them, is in crisis. That crisis of confidence has been fostered by the bad behavior of those who have lost their moral compass and exploited human beings in search of financial gain and career advancement.

The crippled Israeli soldiers subjected to anthrax vaccine experiments without their informed consent; the innocent Nigerian children injured and killed in antibiotic experiments without their parents' informed consent; the unsuspecting Chinese citizens hurt by toxic drugs and food without their informed consent; and the critically injured children and adults, who will be experimented on by Johns Hopkins researchers without their informed consent, are all casualties of an ethically compromised medical profession with unchecked power that needs to be curbed.

Trust but verify is the wisest course to take when following medical advice of any kind. The human right to informed consent to all medical interventions and use of pharmaceutical products, including vaccines, in non-emergency and emergency circumstances should be codified into law in the United States and all nations.

Bioethicist George Annas is one of the few remaining American biotethicists, who continues to defend without compromise the informed consent ethic and speaks out against incremental erosions of it by medical researchers seeking to conduct medical experiments on individuals without their permission. There is no moral justification for medical experimentation or forced use of pharmaceutical products by human beings without their informed consent or the voluntary consent of their parents.

At our peril, we allow doctors and government health officials today to violate the Nuremberg Code, which was issued by the judges of the Nuremberg Tribunal after The Doctor's Trial following World War II and served as the guiding ethical principle of informed consent protections governing medical interventions carrying a risk of injury or death. The first principle of the Nuremberg Code is:

"The voluntary consent of the human subject is absolutely essential. This means that the person involved should have legal capacity to give consent; should be so situated as to be able to exercise free power of choice, without the intervention of any element of force, fraud, deceit, duress, overreaching, or other ulterior form of constraint or coercion; and should have sufficient knowledge and comprehension of the elements of the subject matter involved as to enable him to make an understanding and enlightened decision."

The moral and economic leverage available to people of all countries to keep medical doctors and government health officials honest, is to legally secure the freedom to exercise informed consent to medical risk taking. Bioethicist Hans Jonas reminds us:

"Let us not forget that progress is an optional goal, not an unconditional commitment, and that its tempo in particular, compulsive as it may be, has nothing sacred about it. Let us also remember that a slower progress in the conquest of disease would not threaten society, grievous as it is to those who have to deplore that their particular disease be not yet conquered, but that society would indeed be threatened by the erosion of those moral values whose loss, possibly caused by too ruthless a pursuit of scientific progress, would make its most dazzling triumphs not worth having."

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