Friday, December 12, 2008

The Dark Side

Eppendork loves to read - always has - in fact one holiday outing to a relatives house found me reading the recipe books because I hadn't taken anything to read.  My relative eventually said to my mother - you need to buy that girl a book.  Which was done in short course and mini-me was very happy.  
Figure 1: mmmm lovely books

Lately I have been reading a book entitled "The Unfortunate Experiment" by Sandra Coney about a horrific episode at a woman's hospital during the 1960s through to the mid eighties.  In short it follows the publication of this paper, and the aftermath of the realisation that women were not receiving treatment or adequate treatment for CIS nor for the progression to invasive cervical cancer.  The paper was the last ditch effort by the authors to get some discussion around the topic and to draw attention to the completely unethical behaviour of one particular Dr/Investigator (Herb Green).  Who operated under the misguided opinion that CIS does not lead to invasive cervical cancer and let no one challenge him nor what he was doing.  He flew in the face of increasing amounts of evidence to the contrary.  It led to a massive inquiry (the Cartwright inquiry) about gynalogical care for women at this hospital, and changed the face of treatment for this disease and other services offered to women.  

Which brings me in a round about way to talking about the absolute need for dissenting voices and a rigorus ethical debate before proceeding with any investigation that might contain animals or humans.   Had debate and defence taken place in the early stages of this investigation, the project just wouldn't have proceeded.   We need debate, we need dissent and we need to have the foresight to see what needs to be changed and then make those changes so we can do good, solid science.


P.S:  Eppendork realises that there is no ethics committee surrounding the ethical treatment of microbes.  What would it be called?  If it indeed existed, PETM? I realise it may sound silly but where do you draw the line and why?


PhizzleDizzle said...

apparently there are no rules really for insects. there is a guy who studies insects and he just goes into the fields with a board with glue all over it and catches them. in a talk he actually said that's the great thing about studying bugs, you can just catch them in glue and no one cares.

this may be a myth because i heard it 2nd or 3rd hand, but i wouldn't be surprised.