Thursday, January 14

Unethical Dilemma

Today in class I was confronted with a question. It was a question that I immediately knew the answer to, but after some class discussion of the issue, I began to second guess myself. Since then, I have given it some thought and have come to a final conclusion of my opinion. However, I would love to have a conversation with several of my friends about it to hear more opinions, but due to lack of time and overlapping schedules, I have decided to post the issue here and hope for some thoughtful comments.

In Research class, we learned briefly about several cases of unethical research that have been conducted, namely, the Nazi experiments on Jewish prisoners, the Tuskegee study, Willowbrook studies, and the Jewish Chronic Disease Hospital study (scroll down to find this one). A question was then asked of the class: Do you think that the research done in these and other unethical studies should be published and utilized?

So that's my question to you. Should the results be published and utilized, or discarded unused because of the unethical means of obtainment? Would not publishing the results be a waste of those individuals' suffering and mistreatment, or would publication add insult to injury in taking lightly their mistreatment for the benefit of others?


Jonas said...

I would say that we should not publish the information.

I can't imagine that inhumane research is uniquely useful for good purposes...

Alex said...

Has there never been a case in history where someone suffered unethical treatment for the eventual good of others? What if we were to carry this discussion one step farther and say that since death is a terrible thing to happen to someone we should not exploit it for our benefit i.e. no human dissection. Where would we be if we gained no useful information from our shortcomings both as individuals and as a society?

These questions are obviously a bit simplistic but I think they deserve consideration.

Francis said...

"or would publication add insult to injury in taking lightly their mistreatment for the benefit of others?"

Some of these studies have no scientific benefit. For example, we let a number of Japanese war criminals off the hook after WWII for their biological weapons research...which turned out to be documentation of the effects of WMD agents on Chinese prisoners.

Having said that, I believe the results of unethical studies should be published if there is no cost necessary (i.e., exonerating war criminals...). When authority muzzles freedom of information on the basis that there is nothing valuable to be gained, it only whets the appetites of conspiracy theorists, suggests to sane people that there is something to hide, and/or piques the imagination of those who might reenact such research. For example, in part thanks to the blunderings of MKULTRA, there is no longer serious scientific inquiry into mind control via LSD.

Kristin said...

Here's my opinion: I don't think that results from unethical studies should be published. I can see it from both sides, and part of me is tempted to think that maybe it is a waste of information.

However, I don't think that the end justifies the means. Hypothetically, say someone owes you money. They pay you back with stolen money. Would you accept or use it? No. The perfectly good, useful money was gotten by means that conflict with your personal principles, and you wouldn't want to have any part in something that goes against your values. Why would the use of research attained through means incompatible with your values be any different? Unethical research conflicts with society's morals.

There are several other reasons that this is my opinion, but that's probably the main one. Thanks for your opinions.