- Thesis: Cultural anthropology has the potential to address a myriad of problems; however, research subjects are greatly harmed by lack of regulation from the government.
- Margaret Mead, Paul Farmer and Franz Boas are anthropologists are actively involved in solving societal problems
- Their positions as cultural anthropologists gave them the upper hand in addressing a range of problems that society had to contend with.
- This was based on the fact that they understood most of these issues and as such, knew how to navigate through in a bid to find solutions.
- Potential in Cultural anthropology to solve most issues
- An ethical and positive way should be identified to address these problems.
- The question on whether the change is achieved depends on the manner one approaches the situation.
- The ethical stance “doing good”
- The relativity of the current stance “do no harm” is ambiguous in the sense that considerable harm could be done by anthropologists
- The haziness affects even the government which in a bid to avoid abusing ethics, may over-regulate research and in turn hinder progress.
- Freedom to researchers directly affects their ability to solve societal problems
- The degree of freedom accorded to researchers will directly affect the extent of a researcher’s contribution towards society.
- Conclusion: Throughout the book, the author gives sound examples on the role anthropologists played in solving social problems. Despite the fact that challenges such as over-regulation by the government, it has been shown beyond reasonable doubt that cultural anthropologists have within them the ability to solve many issues that may be facing the society.
The Guatemala Syphilis Experiment
(Wikipedia, The free Encyclopedia)
Between 1946 and 1948, the United States conducted Syphilis related experiments in the Guatemala. These human experiments took place in the era of Juan Jose Arevalo and Truman. Guatemalan health officials and ministry of Health endorsed the experiments. Mental patients, prisoners, prostitutes and soldiers, were infected with sexually transmitted diseases among them, Syphilis. This was despite the fact that they had not sought consent from the subjects. As it is, more than 83 deaths resulted from these experiments. The US gave an apology in 2010 for conducting the said experiment.
John Charles Cutler was the United States Public Health Service physician responsible for the experiments. In later events, the U.S. Surgeon General attested to the fact that it was impossible to conduct those experiments in the U.S and that is why they were carried out from Guatemala. He also revealed that 1500 study subjects were involved. Though the findings were not published, it is clear that a lot of damage was caused.
The study had hoped to establish the role of penicillin in preventing and treating venereal diseases. Prostitutes already infected with Syphilis were paid by the researchers to have sex with prisoners while others were infected directly through bacterium inoculation. Completion of the penicillin therapy was only done to 26% of the study subjects with the others being treated with antibiotics. The researchers capitalized on the fact that the subjects were unaware and defied the laws of research in the process. Researchers are supposed to conduct their research only after they have acquired consent from the subjects. They should inform the study subjects what it is they require from them and how the said subjects will be affected by the research. That period has been defined as a dark moment in the history of medicine. Modern rules do not allow human research to be conducted without acquiring informed consent.
Alvaro Colom, the president of Guatemala referred to those experiments as crimes against humanity. This fuelled president Obama to offer a formal apology to the country. The medical researchers had been well aware of the unethical nature of what they were doing. The institute of Medicine in the US was instructed to review the experiments that had been carried out during that period. The results from the review showed that ethics have been violated and more so because medical practitioners are guided by particular ethics.
Such instances necessitate questions such as where the line should be drawn in as far as freedom to researchers is concerned. Over-regulation by the government has been shown to inhibit the level of success. On the other hand, failure to regulate research may lead to uncalled for events such as the Guatemalan Syphilis experiment. It there becomes a daunting problem having to decide how much regulation should be put in place.
Research that involves human beings should be handled with a lot of sensitivity. Human life is priceless and should be treated like that. Research has the ability to change society for the better; it could also achieve the exact opposite. For research to impact the society positively, a considerable amount of regulation should be put in place. These directives should prohibit cases where the level of certainty is low for a level that death could be one of the results. Abuse of study subjects should be shunned in all ways possible.