Prison research can't meet standard of "freely given informed consent"

LETTER — Posted Nov. 6, 2006

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Regarding "IOM panel wants prisoners to be available for research" (link): This is a demonstration of the ethical failure of physicians to understand the phrase "freely given informed consent," which is the first tenet of the Nuremberg Code of Medical Ethics.

Having been the dermatological consultant to the inmates at San Quentin Prison from 1955-1960, I can attest to the fact that incarceration in a prison means that the proposed inmate volunteer subject for use in drug trials is an oxymoron.

The use of prisoners throughout the history of American medicine has revealed only abuse and the threat of harm or death in many cases.

I would ask the "experts" at the Institute of Medicine to spend two to three days in a prison of their choosing and they will realize that no prisoner is free in any sense of the word.

Michael J. Franzblau, MD, San Francisco

Note: This item originally appeared at http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2006/11/06/edlt1106.htm.

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