The Willowbrook Study

The Willowbrook study was conducted between 1963 and 1966 at the Willowbrook State Hospital. The study involved a number of mentally retardant children who lived in the institution who were deliberately infected with the hepatitis virus. The infection process took place in two phases. The earlier phase had the children fed with stool extracts from infected individuals while the second phase had the children injected with purified preparations of the virus. Investigators in this study claimed that most of the children were infected with the virus by coming by coming to conduct with infected individuals under the carefully controlled research conditions.

             The purpose of this study was to analyze the effects of the disease if it was left untreated for a long period of time. It also was intended to assess the effects of gamma globulin as an intervention. To get more children to join this study, parents were tricked to enrolling their children by the promise that they would have them admitted (Murphy, 2004).

            Ethically the study was illegal to start with. The fact that the subjects were children and their consent was not sought is ethically wrong. The other factor is that the children were unwell and unless they were being offered treatment to their mental retardant, their involvement in this study was inhuman. Deliberate infection of children with any virus or disease goes against the ethics of medicine and research in general. The purpose of the study was to assess the effects of the disease if it was left untreated for a long period. This purpose gave the impression that the children were to carry the disease for a long period without any form of intervention. This study was inhuman, dangerous and deceitful.



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The University of Harvard Faculty of Medicine and related Sciences undertook a study code named Natural History of HB Virus in the year 1988-1990. The purpose of the study was to analyze the effects of the Hepatitis B virus if left untreated for a long time. The study was administered by the medicine students and professors of Harvard University. Participants were selected patients who happened to be carriers of the HB disease. The patients were first talked to and confirmation of their consents redirected to their family members. After consent, blood samples from the patients were taken and used as the only major specimens of the study. To account for effects relative to period of time, the amount of time a patient had lived with the disease were accounted for and the kind of medical intervention applied was noted (Willis, 2007).

Personal Suggestions towards Ethical Behavior in Scientific Studies

The behavior witnessed in the first study, Willowbrook study, was not a case of human error or misguided information but was rather a form of unacceptable research practices. This behavior would have been avoided if the government monitored the operations of such hospitals. Besides, if a scientist or a group of scientists were willing to conduct studies were human subjects were to be used, legal and personal authorization is to be sought. The participant’s consent is the most important that every research is supposed to sought before the study begins. According to the Natural History of HB virus study, it is the responsibility of a researcher to ensure that his/her research is ethical and puts the rights of humans first. Value for human life is important and infecting any person or animal with a disease to monitor effects is punishable by law. Researchers must register their studies with their local governments with all participating institutions and humans being informed thoroughly. If all these were considered, the behavior in the Willowbrook study would have been avoided.

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