The front-page headline of the New York World-Telegram on Jan. 20, 1964 shocked readers: “Charge Hospital Shot Live Cancer Cells Into Patients.”
The stunning accusation was that Brooklyn’s Jewish Chronic Disease Hospital, a facility known for serving an elderly population and those in need of long-term physical care, was “conducting cancer experiments on unsuspecting non-cancerous patients.”
Selwyn Raab, who was a new hire at the old World-Telegram when an editor assigned him to check out a tip about some research shenanigans at a Brooklyn hospital, was admittedly “astonished” by the allegations.
Egregious ethical lapses from the past can be useful vignettes/springboards for workshop discussion but they shouldn’t be used as justification of why research ethics review arrangements exist. The former can get attendees thinking and talking about research ethics the latter runs the risk of reinforcing that human research ethics is about punishing 99.9% for the awful misdeeds of the reckless minority from decades ago.