Sunday, June 22, 2008

How evil can prevail in state-sanctioned biowarfare research

It's important to note that the South African clandestine chemical and biowarfare program developed after the Nuremberg Code and Helsinki Declaration, proving that while important, they aren't sufficient to protect people from dangerous political regimes. It could be argued that a democratic form of governance can prevent research abuses. But the Tuskegee and plutonium experiments show that even in democracies, research atrocities can occur. Democracies do, however, allow for a free and independent press--a critical component in exposing unethical research programs, as Welsome's journalistic tenacity proved.

And what about physicians in state-sanctioned bioweapon programs? Could another Ishii or Mengele appear in the future?

In some ways, medical training inadvertently encourages those who are predisposed to dehumanize others. For example, from the first day of anatomy lab, some medical students must mentally dehumanize their cadavers in order to dissect them. (See "Cadavers Give Docs Leg Up in Training.") And the long, grueling hours during internship and residency can lead to anger and frustration--particularly when dealing with difficult, abusive, and sometimes, violent patients.

Dr. Laura Kahn at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.