Badpuppy Gay Today

Monday, 19 May, 1997

GOVERNMENT GUINEA PIGS

Eerie Apologies to People Now Dead

What About 1970's Vaccines and AIDS?

By Warren D. Adkins



 

Bill Clinton's voice choked with emotion while he spoke, acting, as he did, as a stand-in apologist for crimes against humanity--crimes against U.S. citizens--perpetrated by an earlier incarnation of the very government which Clinton now represents. This was also the very government charged--evidently somewhat ineffectively-- by the U.S. Constitution to act as a watchdog over the welfare and happiness of the mosaic of human types living within its proudly claimed borders.

For those African-American citizens of the state of Alabama, the clandestine Tuskegee experiment apology has been too long in coming. Survivors who received it--those who'd been left untreated in a United States government research project studying potentially lethal syphilis--were mostly in their 90's. "Our" government, caught experimenting without permission on its own citizenry left itself, with this admission, as a major suspect for similar crimes like those hinted at in last week's (GayToday, Health) feature, AIDS as a Man-Made Plague. In that feature, a connection between a top-named AIDS expert and 1970's U.S. biological warfare experiments--including reputed vaccines--were placed in alarming contexts.

Nor was the Tuskeegee experiment unique. Radiation exposure blithely visited on both unsuspecting military personnel and civilians in the vicinity of atomic testing grounds remains, as yet, to be properly aired. Other areas, including a southern Air Force base, are under examination for harboring suspicious neighborhood-disease-causing paraphernalia.

And now comes a peculiar news twist, telling that government records--for 31 years have--in a little-known locale-- recorded American-backed experiments on animals. The only animals missing in these records are Homo Sapiens. Cats, dogs, chimpanzees, rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs, et al, get a full accounting. Even the pains they may experience are duly recorded. But what of human pains? Nada.

R. Alto Charo, whose National Bioethics Advisory Commission decides this week what to say about cloning (See Events, GayToday, May 19), says "We have better information about animal experiments than we do about human experiments."

It has been two decades--following revelations uncovering the Tuskeegee study-- since the Federal Government established the first rules for controlling human experimentation. These dated rules, however, fail to cover work falling under categories such as national security, and it is common knowledge, say ethicists, that they do not cover much of what many doctors and scientists now do regularly.

Representative Christopher Shays, Republican of Connecticut, began hearings during the first week of May to examine the scope of experimental-medical ethics violations. He proclaimed, after the first had been testimonies received, that he was startled. "I think the more we get into this," he said, "the more we are going to realize how casual this process really is."

More ominous remarks have been made by Dr. Gary B. Ellis, who heads the Federal Office for the Protection from Research Risks in Rockville, Maryland. "There is unchecked human experimentation taking place," he says, and "my estimate is that there is a substantial reservoir of research activity that occurs beyond the boundaries of existing rules and policies."

Alarming in the extreme and strangely telling as well, is the commercial empire's criticism of criminal penalties for failing to get human permission-checks, that which comes from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association. The Association often finances private research where, according to Dr. Ellis, most violations seem to occur.

Senator John Glenn, Democrat of Ohio, has been cooperating with The Federal Office for Protection from Research Risks. While Dr. Ellis says there is "incident after incident where we don't have authority (to investigate)" and that "it's very frustrating," Senator Glenn has responded by seeking authority for Ellis' offices by introducing a bill, The Human Research Subject Protections Act of 1997.

This bill, if passed, would require informed consent and an Institutional Research Board review of all experiments. If medical personnel or drug manufacturers are caught experimenting on uninformed citizens, Glenn's protection bill has needed teeth: the criminal penalties to which the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association so strenuously objects.

Informed Consent--explaining to patients how a given drug may help or hurt-- was a concept that originated during the Nuremberg trials in which Nazis were being judged for failing in this regard. Only a handful of Americans knew, at that time, of the infamous Tuskegee experiment, one which, in hindsight, causes the U.S. government's charges at Nuremberg to sink in blatant hypocrisy.

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