Before he was done, cancer researcher Chester Southam had injected HeLa cells (and other cancer-derived cells) into more than six hundred people in the name of “research”. Half of them were cancer patients. Very few of them, except those who were incarcerated gave consent for the research. He injected cancer cells into every gynecologic surgery patient who had the misfortune of stumbling his way. Rebecca Skloot aptly titles chapter talking about this research “illegal, immoral and deplorable”.
Since that time grant funding agencies have study sections made up of scientific peers to review grants not only for their scientific rigor, but for their ethics as well. Research institutions have Internal Review Boards that include members from the community to approve all animal and human subjects research. And, journals have peer review and ethical standards for all research. We have come a long way, but it never hurts to remind ourselves of the past and remember the lessons. Continue reading