Willowbrook Conflict Between Research and Ethics

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Willowbrook Conflict Between Research and Ethics

July 05, 2010

Willowbrook Conflict Between Research and Ethics
The Willowbrook State School for children with mental retardation became notorious for and a prime example of a conflict between research and ethics when the details of a research project and the treatment of the residents. Willowbrook initially opened as a new hospital serving WWII veterans however this changed when in 1951, “the hospital was established as the Willowbrook State School for people suffering from mental disabilities” (Starogannis & Hill, 2008, p. 87). Willowbrook continued to serve as a fronted rehabilitation facility for the mentally
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The Willowbrook research also contributed to the public debate over research ethics and the impetus for regulation” (NAP, 2004). This research does not downplay the egregious acts of the research or coercing family members or guardians to consent to the research study through allowing entry into the school via the experiment venue. The residents of the school suffered while being exposed to a live hepatitis virus and while living in severely unsanitary conditions with undertrained and unsupervised staff that performed acts of violence on residents of the school. “Children were sitting on the floor, some nude covered in feces, rocking back and forth making pitiful sounds. Willowbrook was a state school, yet there was very little education happening. This was simply a dumping ground for the city’s unwanted children. The staff, overwhelmed and under-supervised, resorted to prison-style control tactics: disruptive residents were confined in solitary ‘‘pits’’ and left for hours or were beaten with keys and sticks” (Starogannis & Hill, 2008, p. 89). Evidently the research setting was not the optimal setting; the research was performed during a time when guidelines were nonexistent. Protection of the residents was put aside to reach for a vaccine that would aid many more than were affected which places into question the ethical behaviors of the determining entities.
A misguided attempt by researchers to justify the administration of a live

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