U.S. government agencies fund thousands of studies on human subjects, but do not have a very good handle on the basic information about that research—possibly putting participants in harm's way, a presidential panel of reviewers has found.
The presidential bioethics commission looked into the current protections for human subjects in a review triggered by evidence of unethical behavior in a 1940s experiment that deliberately infected Guatemalan prison inmates and mental patients with sexually transmitted disease.
The commission earlier this year concluded that U.S. government researchers must have known they were violating ethical standards at the time of the experiment, shortly after World War II. They have also called for a better system to compensate medical research subjects.
Nothing like the horrors of the Guatemala study could take place under U.S. government watch now, the panel said in a report released Thursday.
But the lags in how federal agencies collect and store data about their research involving human subjects offers no assurance that all unnecessary injuries or unethical activity are prevented.