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A Man of Integrity and Courage

Author: Catharine Niuzzo Honaman



Time: 3 classes
Preparation
Time:
11/2 hours to read the lesson and Dr. Beecher’s article
Materials: A copy of “Laying Ethical Foundations for Clinical Research”

 


Abstract
Now that students are asking how new drugs are found and made available for human use it is time to consider what is ethical in testing new medicines and procedures on people. At some point this must happen no matter how much previous study has been done in non-human models. In this lesson students will read the article that shook up the medical world in the 1960’s in which Dr. Henry K. Beecher exposed the widespread practice of experimentation on human subjects without their knowledge.

Purpose – This is the Explore Lesson. The students will read one of the most important articles in modern medical history on the importance of conducting research in an ethical manner that includes participants who give informed consent.

Objectives
Students will be able to:
1. Read the text, being able to identify the main ideas and their supporting evidence;
2. Explain vocabulary and phraseology that is specific to a scientific text;
3. State how this article responded to a significant societal need;
4. Analyze the arguments made to prove the necessity for change in how society and science approached biomedical research.

National English Education Standards
Standard #1
Students read a wide range of print and nonprint text to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world, to acquire new information, to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace, and for personal fulfillment. Among the texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.

Standard #3
Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features.

Teacher Background
An understanding of the clinical trial process is necessary.
A helpful site is http://www.research.umn.edu/consent/sitemapmed/sitemap_med.html


Resource Websites

http://www.who.int/docstore/bulletin/pdf/2001/issue4/vol79.no.4.365-372.pdf (Website where the copy of “Laying the Ethical Foundations for Clinical Research” is found)
http://history.cit.nih.gov/history/Prot_for_Human_Subjects.html (Timeline of Laws Related to the Protection of Human Subjects. This will be used in the Explain Lesson.)
http://www.research.umn.edu/consent/sitemapmed/sitemap_med.html (Explains about informed consent documents which will be used in the Explain Lesson)

 

 

Activity
1. To prepare for this lesson download the article “Laying the Ethical Foundations for Clinical Research” found at http://www.who.int/docstore/bulletin/pdf/2001/issue4/vol79.no.4.365-372.pdf . Each student needs a copy. Also make a copy of the ‘Check your Understanding questions’ sheet found at the end of the lesson for each student.

2. Now that students are asking how new drugs are found and made available for human use, it is time to consider what is ethical in testing new medicines and procedures on people. At some point this must happen no matter how much previous study has been done in non-human models. Ask the students if they know of any times in the past when people were involved in unethically conducted experiments. They may bring up the horrendous Nazi experiments of World War II or the infamous Tuskegee Experiment that took place in the United States from the 1930’s until the early 1970’s. So what prevents unethical practices from happening today? The conscience of the scientific and medical community, the clinical trial process, and legislation that protects human subjects.

3. In this lesson students will read the article that shook up the medical world in the 1960’s in which Dr. Henry K. Beecher exposed the widespread practice of experimentation on human subjects without their knowledge. On the first day of this lesson give the students just the first two pages of: “Laying the Ethical Foundations for Clinical Research” and the Check your Understanding questions. Have them read the first two pages and answer the questions.

4. You may choose to end the first day or begin the second day of the lesson by having a class discussion in which you go over the responses to the Check for Understanding questions. Students should correct their own papers to reinforce the appropriate answers and to keep engaged with the material. Next they will go on to read Dr. Beecher’s actual article. Even though the medical examples are full of precise medical explanations, the article itself is quite appropriate for a high school reader. Ask the students to make an outline of the main ideas and supporting evidence that is in the article. They should also make a list of representative medical terminology found in the article.

5. Start the third day of the lesson by comparing outlines of Dr. Beecher’s article. What were his main points? Help the students to see that even though Dr. Beecher was writing for a highly specialized audience he made his arguments clearly and simply. In looking at the medical terminology emphasize that it was used to specifically describe certain procedures, but was not used to make the article overly complex or to obscure the arguments with inappropriately sophisticated phraseology.


Closure
What makes Dr. Beecher’s article timeless is the message and how clearly it is communicated. These are still concerns that we have today: not putting the pursuit of knowledge above respecting human life. Ask the students if they can make any connections to issues that are currently in the news.

Homework
None

Embedded Assessment
Student learning for this lesson can be assessed by looking at the accuracy of the answers to the Check for Understanding questions and the outline of the main ideas and supporting evidence that is in Dr. Beecher’s article. The willingness to participate in class discussions is also a good indicator of involvement in the learning process.

 


PULSE is a project of the Community Outreach and Education Program of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center and is funded by:


an
NIH/NCRR award #16260-01A1
The Community Outreach and Education Program is part of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center: an NIEHS Award

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Supported by NIEHS grant # ES06694


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Last update: November 10, 2009
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