WASHINGTON, (AFP) – A bioethics panel that investigated a Guatemalan sex disease scandal urged the US government Thursday to consider compensating victims who are harmed by participating in future research.
The President’s Bioethics Commission was tasked by Barack Obama after revelations last year that 1,300 people were exposed to venereal disease as part of macabre research led by an American in Guatemala in the 1940s. Eighty-three people died during the course of the research.
In its final report, the commission urged greater transparency, easy-to-understand warnings about the potential dangers of participating in studies, and a continued focus on high ethical standards in US federally funded research.
“The commission is confident that what happened in Guatemala in the 1940s could not happen today,” said commission chair Amy Gutmann.
“We also are confident that there is room for improvement in protecting human subjects from harm — avoidable harm — and unethical treatment.”
The United States last year was engaged in 55,000 research projects around the world involving human subjects, mostly for health and medical purposes.
Gutmann said there was a “strong ethical case” for compensating people who are hurt in research but stopped short of urging a payout for the victims in Guatemala, where five survivors of the experiments were recently found.
“We were charged by the president to make recommendations looking forward and we are strongly recommending that the government study and find a way, expeditiously, to assure people who volunteer for human subjects research that they will be compensated,” she told reporters.