Historical Overview

7. Questionable Research Practices

During the latter half of the twentieth century, questionable research practices were reported in many different parts of the world. Some events were especially significant since they prompted regulatory activity and increased public scrutiny.

In 1966, Henry Beecher, an American doctor and researcher, described 22 cases of American researchers conducting ethically dubious research involving humans. He concluded that ‘it must be apparent that [participants] would not have been available if they had been truly aware of the uses that were made of them’ [Henry Beecher, Ethics and Clinical Research, 1966]. This was followed by other revelations of misconduct, most notably:

The Willowbrook case - the hepatitis virus was given to institutionalised mentally retarded children in an attempt to understand the natural history of the disease and to test the effect of a protein called ‘gamma globulin’ [US, Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments, Report Chapter 3].