Impoverished Morals In Impoverished Countries

Anna Stanek
Bioethics

Clinical Trials: Impoverished Morals in Impoverished Countries

When new drugs are created, when an unbeatable disease runs rampant, researchers and scientists spring into action. Numerous tests must be run to get the answers they seek on what Disease A will do to a person, and whether Drug B will treat it. Much medical and scientific advancement has been made via tests that researchers have run. Because of these advancements, many diseases are now easily treatable with just a pill, a shot, or regular treatment of some kind. However, the means used to reach this end are not always achieved in the most moral of ways. Tests and studies are being executed in third world countries, where the residents are too poor to afford treatment of their own, or the disease being studied is flourishing. Scientists see it as an inexpensive and convenient way to find solutions, but these studies, such as the studies of HIV in Uganda or the Tuskegee Experiments in rural Alabama, are unjustifiable. The NIAID-administered HIV transmission studies in Uganda are immoral because the researchers took advantage of Ugandan’s poverty, much like American doctors doing government-funded research took advantage of the subjects of the Tuskegee Experiments.
From 1994 to 1997, Thomas C. Quinn and a team of researchers from the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases led a study centering around the transmission of the disease HIV in the African country of Uganda. Part of the study involved 415 couples in which one partner was HIV positive and the other was HIV negative. The idea was to better understand how and under what conditions HIV was transmitted between the couples. The participants were all given equal information on the practice of safe sex and the use of condoms to prevent the disease from spreading. They were also provided with access to free condoms, testing for HIV, and professional counseling. They were not, however, able to obtain antiretroviral drugs or any other antibiotic treatment because the country could not afford them. Thus, the knowingly fatal disease was left virtually untreated. After a 30-month follow-up on the couples was through, it was found that about 21% (90 of the partners) had become infected with HIV. Though everyone involved in the study had consented to do so, it is still unfair to him or her because it created a double standard. The only reason Uganda was chosen is because it is a place where HIV is not only prevalent, but the country cannot afford to properly treat it. The researchers, knowing this, took advantage of their situation of extreme poverty. Those affected were only subjects to the researchers, used as means to their end. If the study had been executed while based upon moral standards, the couples would have been offered the same treatment that was available to those United States.
The studies in Uganda have been compared to the famed Tuskegee Experiments that took place in the United States from the 1930s to the 1970s. A government-funded corporation gathered nearly 400 poor African-American sharecroppers in Alabama that were all plagued with syphilis. The men were not told they had syphilis, rather that they merely had “bad blood” so the researchers could follow the course of the disease when it was left untreated. They went as far as to make sure the men were not treated by other medical establishments, and prevented their enlisting in the army during WWII so they could not be treated by army doctors. The sick men were merely granted with free rides to the hospital, free lunches, and paid burials when the disease finally caused them to bite the dust. The researchers were grossly taking advantage of the poverty of the men, and the fact that they were too poor to afford a doctor’s visit, so they knew nothing of their syphilis. The studies continued into the 1970s, despite the fact that syphilis was easily treated with penicillin by 1945.
The difference between the Tuskegee experiments and the studies in Uganda were that while the Tuskegee victims did not know their fatal disease was being left untreated, the Ugandans had consented to participate in the study and knew full well that they had a disease they could not afford to treat. Both, however, are examples of mistreatment of human beings in dire situations. Despite the medical advancements made, the unfair treatment cannot be justified.

Works Cited

Clark, P (2002) AIDS research in developing countries: Do the ends justify the means? Med Sci Monit, Vol. 8 Issue 9, ED 5-16.

McGregor, J. (Fall 2006). Does the Use of Human Subjects is Research is Developing Nations Violate their Human Rights? If So, Are Reparations an Appropriate Response? Journal of Social Philosophy Vol. 37 Issue 3, 441-463.

Salyers, A, & Whitt, D. (2005) Revenge of the Microbes. Washington, D.C.: ASM Press.

Thesis 18/20… Comments: Could be a bit pithier
Organization 16/20… Comments: Need a stronger introduction; conclusion
Evidence 16/20… Comments: Short on sources
Clarity of Writing 20/20… Comments: Very sharp
Style 20/20… Comments: None

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