Unethical Research

Unethical Research

In was not until 1987 that the world would know of unethical experiments that occurred at Auckland University. Researchers were from the School of Obstetrics and Gynecology whose locations were New Zealand and they were pursuing their postdoctoral studies at the institution (Manning, 2010). The purpose of this research was for providing an analysis on women receiving lesions eliminted, and individuals followed because of continued evidence of the disease. Subjects chosen for the experiment included women suffering from precancerous carcinoma CIS and those with vaginal vault. Researchers exposed subjects to cervix smears diagnostic biopsies periodically without the consent of the participants. After exposure, there was either undertreatment or no treatment to the subjects so as to observe the development of leisions into the invasive cancer. The research though not widely published was a gross violation of human rights and an example of how organizations can conduct unethical research.

Reports indicate that most of the subjects were women patients at New Zealand’s leading teaching hospital specializing in Obstetrics and Gynecology. An article named natural history published the results of the experiment. The focus mostly was on a patient whose name was Clare Matheson but in the study referred to as patient Ruth. Clare Matheson was initially a diagnostic biopsies patient but developed invasive cancer from the experiment. There were those patients that developed invasive cancer and eventually died (Manning, 2010). Dangers posed by the research were evident, but the institution did not work to save the remaining patients. Instead, it continued with the study and experiment of the individuals that survived the exposure without any proper mechanisms to protect them from harm. In accordance to this, it is evident that victims suffering injury from the research were a woman from the neighborhoods of Auckland.

There were adverse effects to the institution, the society, and individuals that participated in the experiments. Critics within and without the institution emerged and challenged the formalized findings from the experiment. Despite initial marginalization of the critics, authorities had to respond to the outcry from the society (Manning, 2010). Government facilitated the formation of an inquiry that would investigate experiments conducted at the national hospital women’s hospital. This would taint the reputation of the hospital after the inquiry reported that the experiment was inhumane and unethical. To this effect, there recommendations developed by the inquiry for the purposes of avoiding future reoccurrence of such incidences. Given that the chairman to the inquiry was District Judge Silva Cartwright, Cartwright Inquiry was the name the government gave to the recommendations.

It is possible to resolve or prevent reemergence of such unethical research behaviors. Researchers and experimenters should understand their objectives beyond scientific and experimental procedures (McNeill, 2000). That is they should respect and safeguard the dignity of their subjects through communication of the purposes, process, and possible implications of experiment. This will give subjects a chance to give or deny consent of participation in the process. Governments and relevant bodies should formulate and enforce legislations that require researchers to have a human rights approach towards their subjects (Beauchamp, 2001). To this effect, they should enhance recalls of all ongoing studies that would lead to risking the lives of participants or depriving them of their human rights. After Auckland’s National Women’s Hospital case, New Zealand authorities formulated strategies to safeguard women from unfortunate experiments.


McNeill, P.M. (2000). The ethics and politics of Human Experimentation. New York: CUP archives.

Manning, J. (2010). The Cartwright Papers. Auckland: Bridget Williams Books.

Beauchamp, T. L. (2001). Principles of Biomedical Ethics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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