August 13, 2014

In UK, Experimenting With Heart Attack Victims Without Consent

Direct from the UK comes word of one of the more dubious medical experiments I've heard of in some time, that should raise ethical red flags around the world.

If you live in the Welsh, West Midlands, North East, South Central and London Ambulance Service areas, and you take no action to opt-out from a planned new University of Warwick study -- and you're unfortunate enough to have a heart attack -- you may randomly find yourself treated with a placebo rather than the conventional treatment of adrenaline. If you die from your heart attack, researchers will not actively seek out your relatives to inform them of how you were treated.

Persons who happen to see advertisements about the study in those areas and so learn of its existence can in theory opt-out --otherwise, you're a lab rat whether you want to be or not.

Researchers have a legitimate question -- does adrenaline therapy in these situations do more harm than good? Unfortunately, in their attempt to avoid study bias, they have violated a basic informed consent principle of ethical experimentation.

I suspect that this study stands a good chance of collapsing in the light of publicity, and the litigation potential appears enormous even for the UK. If nothing else, I would expect to see campaigns urging UK residents in the affected areas to opt-out en masse.

I would opt-out if I lived there.

Sometimes ostensibly "good science" is unacceptably bad ethics.

I am a consultant to Google -- I speak only for myself, not for them.

Posted by Lauren at August 13, 2014 11:19 AM | Permalink
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