Thursday, October 14, 2010

Course Spotlight: Engineering Professional Development 155

The following post, shared with permission, was written in the Engineering Professional Development class taught by George Johnson.

"In the chapter “Illegal, Immoral and Deplorable” Rebecca Skloot points out many of the secrets that were kept during the growth and research of the HeLa cells. Dr. Chester Southam, a cancer researcher, proposed the thought, what if Henrietta’s cancer cells could infect the scientists working on them. He tested this theory using HeLa cells and injecting them into patients that were diagnosed with cancer and recorded the results. Southam simply told the patients that he was testing their immune systems. Within hours the patient’s arms were red and swollen, and days later nodules began to grow near the injection site. He removed some of the lumps to determine if they were cancerous, but also left a few to see if immune systems would reject them or if it would spread. He also injected prisoners to better understand how the cancer cells affected healthy people. The inmates showed the same symptoms, but the men fought off the cancer completely, and with each new injection their bodies responded faster, so the injections were creating immunity to cancer.

Southam stated, “The only drawback to the use of cancer cells is the phobia and ignorance that surrounds the word cancer.” This is proof that patients were never told what their injection truly consisted of because he didn’t want to scare them. Chester Southam’s case relates directly to the Nuremberg Trials from World War II. “The voluntary consent of the human subject is absolutely essential.” A judge once stated, “A physician violates his duty to his patient and subjects himself to liability if he withholds any facts which are necessary to form the basis of an intelligent consent by the patient to the proposed treatment.” This is not always true in such a case as Southam in which the subjects were not his patients. Southam’s lawyer argued, “If the whole profession is doing it, how can you call it unprofessional conduct?” Southam was found guilty of fraud or deceit and unprofessional conduct in the practice of medicine. Another issue today is the argument on whether tissues and cells are still property of the donor after the cells and tissues have been removed from the body. Many tissues and cells are saved and stored from diagnostic procedures and do not require patient consent. Some people argue that donors should have the right to determine what their tissues are used for, but consent diminishes the value of tissue. “You can’t ignore this issue of who gets the money and what the money is used for,” says Ellen Clayton. “I’m not sure what to do about it, but I’m pretty sure it’s weird to say everybody gets money except the people providing the raw material.” But experts do not want to create profit-seekers toying with science and research. Blumberg believes researchers are entrepreneurs and says, “Whether you think the commercialization of medical research is good or bad depends on how into capitalism you are.” Lori Andrews counters this statement by arguing, “The fundamental problem here isn’t the money; it’s the notion that the people these tissues come from don’t matter.” The research Southam conducted was wrong because he lied and kept important information from the patients about the injections they were receiving. I believe that many of the people would have terminated the process if they found out he was injecting cancerous cells into their arms. Southam never had approval from any patients and I think it’s interesting that when asked why he didn’t inject himself with the cells, he simply stated that there was no need for any risk to a person of great importance to cancer research. He knew these injections could possibly be fatal and he didn’t care about anyone but his own work and progress. I think patient consent should be required in all cases, even after procedures because the patient should know that their cells or tissues could possibly be used for research. I don’t think it’s necessary for patients to specify preferences on how they want their cells to be used because then it gets unorganized and complicated. The money that is rewarded for research and development should be returned to science to enhance studies."

Taylor Moehling
Engineering Professional Development 155
George Roesch Johnson, Instructor

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Anonymous calgary mortgage broker said...

Interesting post. I agree with you about patients giving consent about their cells.

May 3, 2011 at 1:29 PM  
Anonymous Sell House Denver said...

nice & informative post

June 1, 2011 at 2:36 AM  
Anonymous Dave At Our Lymph Nodes said...

This is interesting... I dont think that they can do this in Canada. I am sort of surprised that it is allowed in the states, IE: consent should be mandatory. But the quality of the blog is good and right on topic.

June 16, 2011 at 8:13 PM  
Anonymous Koibook said...

A great post! Strongly agree with you!

June 9, 2014 at 6:36 AM  
Anonymous MIM NI Engineering said...

Engineering professional development is critical for going forward and advancing breakthroughs in cell research

July 1, 2014 at 10:31 AM  
Anonymous juliarnur said...

Good point in advancing the engineer to gain more creative and innovative output in cell research

October 18, 2014 at 9:44 AM  
Anonymous Andreea said...

This is proof that patients were never told what their injection truly consisted of because he didn’t want to scare them !!! What we are talking about?

January 1, 2015 at 5:03 PM  

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