ACHRE Report

Part I

Chapter 2


The American Expert, the American Medical Association, and the Nuremburg Medical Trial

The "Real World" of Human Experimentation

Nuremburg and Research with Patients

American Medical Researchers' Reactions to News of the Nuremburg Medical Trial

New Times, New Codes


Chapter 2: Conclusion

In the late 1940s American medical researchers seldom recognized that research with patient-subjects ought to follow the same principles as those applied to healthy subjects. Yet, as we have seen in this chapter, some of those few who asked themselves hard questions about their research work with patients concluded that people who are ill are entitled to the same consideration as those who are not. That some did in fact reach this conclusion is evidence that it was not beyond the horizon of moral insight at that time. Nevertheless, they were a minority of the community of physician researchers, and the organized medical profession did not exhibit a willingness to reconsider its responsibilities to patients in the burgeoning world of postwar clinical research.

While a slowly increasing number of investigators reflected on the ethical treatment of human subjects during the 1950s, it was not until the 1960s and a series of highly publicized events with names like "Thalidomide," "Willowbrook," and "Tuskegee" that it became apparent that a professional code, whether it originated in Nuremberg or Helsinki, did not provide sufficient protection against exploitation and abuse of human subjects of research. In the next chapter we examine how the federal government became intimately, extensively, and visibly involved in the regulation of research with human subjects.

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