Letter to the editor of the Wall Street Journal


I had to laugh when I read your article "Legislation Has Pesticide Firms Testing Products on Humans" (9/28).

In raising questions about the ethics of testing low levels of pesticides on human subjects, the article quotes Arthur Caplan, director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania, as saying "You take an 18-year-old kid and offer him 800 bucks or 600 bucks, you can get him to do almost anything... Money can corrode informed consent."

But where was Dr. Caplan when the University of Pennsylvania was testing the effects of alcohol directly on infants?

In a study reported in the journal Pediatrics (May 1998), Penn researchers fed small amounts of alcohol directly to infants to see what their reactions would be. Supposedly, this research protocol was approved by the Committee on Studies Involving Human Beings at the University of Pennsylvania.

Putting aside the dubious scientific goal of testing whether alcohol ingestion makes infants squirm and that the infants could hardly have consented, what about the mothers? Who were they and why did they allow their children to be "tortured" by these researchers?

Given that the setting was the city of Philadelphia, the women were probably poor and really needed the money. I guess for 800 or 600 bucks you can get poor women to do almost anything. Now, where have I heard that before?

Steven Milloy
Publisher, www.junkscience.com

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