On First Looking Into Kutcher's "Contested Medicine": Ethical Tensions in Clinical Research
Perspectives in biology and medicine 2010 Spring; 53(2): 304-14
Contested Medicine examines the experiments done at the University of Cincinnati by Eugene Saenger and his colleagues during the 1960s, a time of great fear that the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union would become a hot war using nuclear weapons. These studies were to provide the Department of Defense information relevant to the consequences of exposure of military personnel to ionizing radiation in such circumstances. Kutcher, a radiation physicist turned historian of science, is especially well prepared to put these studies into the context of the evolving bioethics of the time. He reviews the essential ethical reviews, beginning with the Nuremberg Code and extending to those of the Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments appointed by President Clinton. These evolving ethical standards provide a cautionary note to today's methods of clinical experimentation in search of proper evidence-based medicine. There has been an ascendance of the priority of patient rights over societal good except in increasingly limited special circumstances. Some of what was considered good and necessary science in the 1960s and 1970s is no longer considered proper. Similarly, future ethical norms may well find current trial methodology to be flawed.
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