Every single breakthrough in science, be it the invention of a more efficient pain-killer, or a new discovery to prevent obesity, it takes months, or even as long as decades, to go through a series of specifically planned steps to be followed, which then require to undergo many circles of trial and errors, rejections and other issues. It is then that the new drug hits the market, along with a number of marketing strategies ranging from glossy magazine ads to huge banners at bus stops and junctions.
This entire procedure right from the beginning is termed as ‘clinical trial’ and is one of the leading industries that shell out such a huge capital, which makes them the second leading industry in the world.
But virtually unknown to the layman, there’s a horrible past, present and probably future to the ‘inside’ of these miraculous achievements in medicine.
To ensure that every single process is carried out properly without any tampering or manipulations, strict rules are to be adhered to, and that’s where it all goes horribly wrong. Already known to exploit animal subjects, science is now entering a new expanse, and innumerable human subjects have known to be exploited in this very dream of making a new ‘breakthrough’ in medicine.
The presence of strict rules and regulations present in the Nuremberg code, the Declaration of Helsinki, and several other regulatory documents doesn’t seem to shy away some over-ambitious professionals from holding human life at stake.
Some notable medical crimes of the past-
1. Injecting cancer cells in healthy individuals- One of the most dangerous malpractices in medicine, intradermal injections of live cancer cells were given to 22 patients in the year 1963, to see if the cancer cells could live longer in non-cancer patients. These injections were given to the healthy individuals after obtaining an ‘oral consent’.
2. Anti-depressant therapy- A local civilian in a condition of excellent health approached the New York State Psychiatric Institute to treat his depression that had followed his divorce in the year 1952. Contrary to the general treatment for depression, he was made victim to a number of unnecessary ‘injections’ which were purely for the purpose of testing in clinical trials. Adverse reactions to the injections were shunned away by the authorities, and soon enough, when he was given a dose 16 times stronger than his first, he succumbed to death.
3. High oxygen concentrations to premature babies- Aware of the fact that high oxygen concentrations may cause blindness in the premature baby, a physician carried out this procedure without obtaining the informed consent of the parents. What’s more is that the high oxygen treatment was continued even after an adverse reaction (swelling of the eyes) was observed.
4. Lumbar puncture as a free treatment- Dr Vonderlher from the Public Health service, performed lumbar puncture as a special free treatment, when in reality, this treatment was purely diagnostic in nature, and was required by researchers.
Nazi experiment - Be ready for some gruesomeness
One of the most gruesome and insensitive malpractices of all times were carried out by the Nazi on a number of Jewish prisoners.
► In order to study bone and tissue regeneration, sections of bones and tissues were removed from the subjects without the use of anesthesia which resulted in mutilation, intense agony and sometimes permanent disability to the subject.
► An experiment conducted with a view to discovering new ways to prevent and treat hypothermia used forced immersion of subjects into a tank of ice water for upto five hours. More than 100 people were reported to die as a result of this particular experiment.
► To gain more information about head injuries, the Nazis carried out this experiment in secrecy, wherein a young boy, aged around 12 years, was strapped to a chair, unable to move, and a mechanical hammer would hit his head every few seconds. The boy was noted to be driven insane from the resulting torture.
► High altitude experiments made use of pressure chambers, in which altitudes of upto 20,000 m was stimulated, with prisoners made part of this experiment. Of the 200 that were a part of this experiment, 80 died immediately, whereas the remaining were executed. It is also rumored that Sigmund Rascher performed vivisections (live surgeries without the use of anesthesia) of the subjects who survived the initial experiment. Vivisection is regarded as a form of torture.
► To study different ways to make sea water drinkable, experiments were conducted, wherein a group of 90 were deprived of food and water, and given nothing except sea water. These subjects became so dehydrated that they were found licking freshly mopped floors in an attempt to drink water.
► Children were deliberately infected with tuberculosis and then operated upon to remove the axillary lymph nodes. They were then later murdered.
Even today, illegal and inexpensive abortions, insanitary conditions in hospitals and improper sterilization of equipment are noted. Doctors stealing away kidneys also make headlines more often.
Seems like the Hippocratic oath is hardly remembered, and this very profession, supposed to be responsible for saving lives and empowering health, is now turning into an ugly monster. Moreover, in a developing country like India, where literacy is uncommon, and village life is hard, such malpractices are common.
Community education and awareness can play a good role in preventing such life-threatening misconducts.