Discussing Ethical Abuse in Research

A small paragraph as a response to each example is fine. Does not need to be formatted just single spaced will work.No references needed.

Discussing Ethical Abuse in Research

Objective: to promote critical thinking skills by exploring and critiquing some well-known psychological research studies regarding possible ethical violations

Type/length of activity: small-group activity

Time to complete: 4550 min

Directions: Read each of the following summaries of famous studies in psychology. After each one, examine the research for ethical violations. Discuss whether or not each study could be conducted today in light of modern ethical guidelines governing research, and why or why not. How each study could be redesigned to eliminate or minimize the ethical problems.

Example 1: Little Albert. Watson and Rayner (1920) taught a young boy named Albert to become afraid of a gentle white rat. At the beginning of the study, Albert was unafraid of the white rat and played freely with the animal. While he was playing with the rat, the experimenters frightened the child by making a loud noise behind him. Albert was startled and began to cry. Thereafter, he avoided the rat and would cry whenever it was brought close to him. Once this fear was learned, Watson and Rayner found that fear could also be elicited by showing Albert any furry object. He became frightened of many other furry objects such as a fur coat, a dog, a rabbit, and a furry face mask. 

Example 2: The Tuskegee Syphilis Study. Six hundred low-income African American males, 400 of whom were infected with syphilis, were monitored for 40 years. The purpose of the study was to examine the long-term effects of syphilis. The subjects of the study were the 400 African American males with syphilis, who were primarily poor sharecroppers. They were unaware that they had syphilis. They were also unaware of the true nature of the experiment. The most horrifying aspect of the experiment was that, even in the 1950s, when penicillin was proved to be effective at curing syphilis, the researchers did not treat the mens syphilis. They even prevented other doctors who saw the participants from treating the syphilis. As many as 100 men may have died from complications of their untreated syphilis.

Example 3: NIH-Funded Studies. In the period of time between 1945 and 1966, the U.S. National Institutes of Health funded 2,000 research projects, and none of them used informed consent. An article written by Henry Beecher that appeared in the June 16, 1966, issue of the New England Journal of Medicine exposed many clinical research trials that had been funded by the government that were highly unethical. One of the examples concerned mentally retarded children at a state school who were infected with hepatitis virus. The researcher who carried out this experiment eventually became head of the pediatrics department at New York University. He felt that the experiment was justified, because finding a cure for hepatitis would help many more people. In each of Beechers examples, clinical trials were done on what some may consider marginal members of society, such as the poor, developmentally disabled, and senile. These marginalized members of society were unable to decide for themselves whether or not to participate in these trials.

For further information on unethical research practices, as well as examples that can be discussed in class, visit the following Internet sites:

The History and Importance of Informed Consent in Clinical Trials
Using Human Subjects for Medical Research