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.
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
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.
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
the Ethical Foundations for Clinical Research” and
the Check your Understanding questions. Have them read
two pages and answer the questions.
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
Students should correct their own papers to reinforce
the appropriate answers and to keep engaged with the
Next they will
go on to read Dr. Beecher’s actual article. Even
though the medical examples are full of precise medical
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
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
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.