Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Lawmakers and Involuntary Human Research Subjects, Part One of Two

According to the Alliance for Human Research Protection (1), a network of lay people and professionals dedicated to advancing responsible and ethical medical research practices, 15 million Americans per year are recruited into clinical trials. The Alliance seeks to protect populations at high risk of falling victim to exploitation in such trials. High risk populations traditionally include but are not limited to disadvantaged children, disadvantaged elderly, disabled mentally and physically ill, immigrants, residents of underdeveloped nations, prisoners and members of the armed forces.

The subject matter largely eludes the attention of the American public for reasons including the topic typically invokes uncomfortable emotions and is a national embarrassment, resulting in minimal and sugar coated media attention. The vast majority of the American public therefore simply remains unaware of its nation's history of exploiting vulnerable, uninformed human research subjects.

While some readers may indeed be at least somewhat familiar with circumstances related to Project MKULTRA, radiation experiments and similar such atrocities, a reasonable argument can be made that members of the UFO community, as compared to the population at large, should particularly educate themselves about the exploitation of human research subjects, as it carries substantial implications to ufology. Numerous verified covert and exploitative state-sponsored research projects consisted of methodology, objectives and resulting testimonies from research subjects that are easily correlated with prevalent themes and witness testimonies commonly found throughout ufology.

Many relevant questions arise. To what extent does the exploitation of involuntary human research subjects continue and in what ways? Where do we find accurate information, when the UFO community and Internet is so littered with sensationalized exaggerations, hoaxes and disturbingly paranoid conspiracy theories? How do we responsibly delve into such subject matter without instigating more inaccurate rumors and the often accompanying poorly conceived lines of premature assertions and faulty logic?

One strategy to find answers is to take a look at what lawmakers are doing and current policies on state-sponsored research involving the use of human subjects. If we limit our research sources to verified documents and relevant quotes, in compliance with best practices in research and reporting, we can at the least separate what has actually taken place and truly been stated from that which has not. The implications of facts can be debated, but facts themselves are easy to establish and not open to debate.

Former Astronaut John Glenn

While serving 25 years as an Ohio Senator (2), former astronaut John Glenn proposed the Human Research Subject Protection Act (3) in 1997. The bill called for measures such as further accountability among researchers and funding agencies as well as penalties for non-adherence. While arguing on behalf of the bill, then-Senator Glenn stated:

I have been in public life and have served this country for many years. Frankly, I do not think too many things that I see surprise me anymore about our laws and about government. Three years ago, though, I began to learn about a gap in our legal system that does truly concern me. In 1993 the Governmental Affairs Committee began to investigate the cold war radiation experiments. These experiments are one of the unfortunate legacies of the cold war, when our government sponsored experiments involving radiation on our own citizens without their consent. They did not even know the experiments were being run on them. It was without their consent.

One of the most infamous of these experiments took place in my own State of Ohio, when scores of patients at the University of Cincinnati were subjected to large doses of radiation during experimental treatments, without their consent, without their informed consent. During the course of this investigation, I began to ask the question, what protections are in place to prevent such abuses from happening again? What law prohibits experimenting on people without their informed consent?

What I found, when I looked into it, is there is no law on the books requiring that informed consent be obtained...

Everyone listening today probably has heard of the Nuremberg Code. That is the list of 10 ethical research principles which were produced as part of the judgment against Nazi physicians who engaged in truly heinous medical experiments during World War II.

The first principle of the Nuremberg Code states that the voluntary consent of the human subject of research is absolutely essential. Unfortunately, as we look back through our history since the late 1940's, it appears that researchers in America may not have taken all that Nuremberg lesson completely to heart...

But to do research on people when they don't even know what the research or the medicines or the radiation is that is being tried on them, I think is unconscionable.

What it comes down to is there are no criminal fines or penalties for violating the spirit or the letter of that Nuremberg Code that should be the basis of all of our informed consent in this country.

In spite of the efforts of Glenn, there are still no such laws or penalties in place. His bill did not pass. Neither individual researchers nor their funding agencies are held criminally liable for violating the rights of human research subjects when done for purposes that can be defined as matters of national security.

It should be noted that millions of dollars have been paid by the federal government in civil judgments to abused research subjects or their surviving loved ones. However, no criminal cases have ever been tried because, simply put and as John Glenn observed and warned, it is not against the law and it never has been. Perhaps it is additionally worthy of consideration that although members of the UFO community frequently describe medical procedures conducted by alleged aliens as unforgivably intrusive violations of fundamental universal rights, a perspective commonly hoped to be held among all well intentioned higher functioning beings, the U.S. federal government does not share the perspective. A closer review obviously informs us that the United States federal government has a long, detailed and confirmed history of conducting such procedures while defining them as matters of national security, or at least this is the case when said procedures are conducted by federally-funded human beings.


(1) Alliance for Human Research Protection: About the Alliance for Human Research Protection

(2) National Aeronautics and Space Administration: Astronaut Bio: John Glenn, Jr. 

(3) Alliance for Human Research Protection: John Glenn on Informed Consent

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