Medical Testing of Prisoners, HIV infection in prisons

Medical Testing of Prisoners, HIV infection in prisons

Medical Testing of Prisoners. Medical Experimentation: Another Tuskegee Study or Beneficial Research

Medical Testing of Prisoners. Recent research has discovered that while HIV infection is relatively high in prison, the majority of those infected arrive at the prison with the disease. With a five times higher infection rate within prisons when compared with the general population and similarly high rates with Hepatitis C, many suggest allowing for controlled experimentation on inmates to test drugs to combat these two infections. Do you agree with Dr. Albert M. Kligman that prisoners should be again involved in medical trials? Develop a position paper addressing both sides of the issue. Provide a historical overview of the significant benefits and detriments involving medical testing of prisoners. Include examples to support your position.


Medical Testing of Prisoners
Medical Testing of Prisoners


Medical Testing of Prisoners


Prisons are overcrowded and underfunded in the United States (Morin, 2016). With over 2.2 million people incarcerated in the few prisons available, the burden of infectious disease and substance abuse disorders is heavy in the justice system. Diseases such as HIV and hepatitis are prevalent and are likely to spread if measures to reduce them are not devised. Evidence-based practices are being used because research in the facilities is strictly regulated the law. It is explained by the historical injustices and abuse subjected to the prisoners in the past during research. It is only through clinical research that the prisoners can access proper treatment plans for the diseases (Schnittker, Uggen, Shannon, & McElrath, 2015). It is in this light that this essay is written. A focus is given to both sides of the argument.

On the one hand, allowing for the research will enhance the quality of life for the prisoners suffering from infectious diseases. On the other hand, there is a chance that abuse and protests from the public will characterize the exercise. This essay affirms that the use of controlled experimentation should be encouraged to reduce cases of infectious diseases in prisons because it can be done in a way that enhances the well-being of the prisoners.

History of Medical Testing Of Prisoners

In the 1970’s, almost 90% research in the pharmaceutical field was done on prisoners (Schnittker, Uggen, Shannon, & McElrath, 2015). The group was subjected to biochemical research. They were observed to determine their reaction to diet drinks and chemical welfare agents. Most of them were not asked for consent. They were also not treated for pain. As a result, most of the prisoners suffered from adverse health impacts. They were severely abused until the federal bureau of prisons, the United States national commission for the protection of human subjects of biomedical and behavioral research and other bodies intervened. The bodies were responding to a public outcry over the Tuskegee syphilis study. It was done with the aim of investigating the impact of untreated syphilis. The participants were not informed that they would not get an effective cure. The prisoners suffered from the consequences of untreated syphilis while believing that they were receiving treatment. Standards were developed to regulate research on prisoners (Iroh, Mayo, & Nijhawan, 2015). Henceforth, research declined. It has led to the increase of HIV and Hepatitis C in the prisons. Allowing for controlled experimentation on inmates may help solve the problem amicably.

The Case against Controlled Experimentation, Medical Testing of Prisoners

The historical abuse of the prisoners in clinical research has been the primary reason why controlled experimentation has been rejected in the United States and other nations. The process is often exploited by doctors who earn much profit by conducting research at low cost and producing medical products worth much money (Schnittker, Uggen, Shannon, & McElrath, 2015). Just as it the case with the Tuskegee study, the ethical questions are likely to be raised in this case. It can be difficult to determine the motivation of the pharmaceutical companies to conduct the research. While some of them will help the patients to access treatment, others are driven by the desire to make profits.

Additionally, the injustices in the United States’ criminal justice system do not allow for the controlled experimentation. There has been an outcry that the numbers of the African-American prisoners are significantly higher than other populations (Levy & Larney, 2015). Requiring the prisoners to go through the experimentation can be seen as a move to advance racism in the country. The Tuskegee study raised such questions because the prisoners were of African-American descent. More so, the conditions in the prisons encourage the spread of diseases. The facilities are overcrowded, leaving room for the spread of infections. Solving such a problem will lead to long-term solutions as opposed to conducting clinical trials (Iroh, Mayo, & Nijhawan, 2015). The prisoners are also not in a position to negotiate for better healthcare. They are vulnerable and will hence give consent for the researchers to conduct the tests. It is particularly true if they feel they will be segregated from other prisoners. The prisoners must, therefore, be protected by the state. In any case, the medical practitioners are at liberty to use animal testing to try new drugs and methods of treating infectious diseases.

The Case for Controlled Experimentation, Medical Testing of Prisoners

 It takes at least eight years for a new drug to be approved by food and drug administration agency in the United States. Diseases such as HIV and hepatitis in prison can spread to the degree that they cause the devastating impact on prisoners. The period is lengthy because of the involvement of animal testing. Use of human testing, on the other hand, will reduce the total time of approval. Levy and Larney (2015) indicate that human testing helps in producing therapeutic agents explicitly meant for humans. The method is likely to produce accurate and reliable results.

Controlled experimentation can be done in such a way that it does not lead to the abuse of the prisoners (Martin, Vickerman, Dore, & Hickman, 2015). It involves seeking for the consent of the prisoner to be involved in the trial. They must have a legal capacity to get involved. Animal testing must have been conducted to determine whether human testing is worthwhile conducting. Physical and mental injuries must be avoided. The trials should be done in such a way that the results are beneficial to society. The persons conducting the trials should be qualified.

The group of study in the research also justifies the use of controlled experimentation. Darke, Cresswell, Mcpherson, and Hamoodi (2015) argue that the prisons should consider doing the tests on the death row inmates. The penalties are costly for prisons. There have been studies that have cast doubts as to how much the method is effective in reducing the levels of crime in society. It has not acted as the deterrence that it was meant to be and hence, it is worthwhile to consider involving the prisoners in experiments. The counties will save on costs while the prisoner’s well being will be improved. Even more, the prisoners stand to gain from the results of the study. It is, therefore, not exploitative or abusive but rather beneficial.

Conclusion Medical Testing of Prisoners

Controlled experiments on HIV and Hepatitis C in prisons should be encouraged because it does not have to lead to exploitation and abuse yet enhances the well-being of the prisoners. The prevalence of diseases in prison requires that evidence-based practices be devised. Animal testing takes a long time and may not offer accurate and reliable results. Human testing, on the other hand, is approved within a short time. The prisoners can participate in a practice that enhances their well-being. The case against the experiment is, therefore, weak because it assumed that Exploitation and abuse must occur. Measures such as seeking consent and involving the right practitioners can be taken during research to avoid mental and physical injuries.

Medical Testing of Prisoners References

Darke, J., Cresswell, T. Mcpherson, S. & Hamoodi, A. (2015). Hepatitis C in a prison in the north east of England: what is the economic impact of the universal offer of testing and emergent medications? Journal of Public Health, 38(4), 554-562.

Iroh, P. A., Mayo, H. & Nijhawan, A. E. (2015). The HIV care cascade before, during, and after incarceration: A systematic review and data synthesis. American Journal of Public Health, 105(7), 5-16.

Levy, M. H. & Larney, S. (2015). The ethics of hepatitis C treatment as prevention among prisoners. Hepatology, 61(1), 402.

Martin, N. K., Vickerman, P., Dore, G. J. & Hickman, M. (2015). The hepatitis C virus epidemics in key populations (including people who inject drugs, prisoners and MSM): The use of direct-acting antivirals as treatment for prevention. Current Opinion in HIV and AIDS, 10(5), 374-380.

Morin, K. M. (2016). Carceral space: Prisoners and animals. Antipode, 48(5), 1317-1336.

Schnittker, J., Uggen, C., Shannon, S. K. & McElrath, S. M. (2015). The institutional effects of incarceration: Spillovers from criminal justice to health care. The Millbank Quarterly, 93(3), 516-560.

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