A Duty to Solve
Do the implications of an unethical experiment justify the means of obtaining the data?
"A successful result will never make an unethical experiment ethical"
- Alan Milstein, Bioethics Professor, 2008
As WWII ended, it became apparent that complete documentation would not be ready for urgent relief efforts in Europe. Instead, Ancel Keys and Joseph Brozek published “Men and Hunger”, a handbook for relief workers hoping to provide insight on the behavior of starved people.
Headline, New York Times, 1946.
"The starvation crisis was over sooner than they thought it would be and it took longer than they thought to publish the experiment, they published some interim studies with their early results. But most of the lasting value of the study came out later."
Full analysis of the Minnesota Starvation Experiment was published in “The Biology of Human Starvation” in 1950. It was found that a high calorie diet and extensive time was required to recover from starvation. In addition, Ancel Keys noted that establishing a democracy in famine-struck areas is impossible, as starving people need food before government.
This handbook was successful in helping relief workers gain an understanding of starvation, improving relief efforts in Europe. However, more thorough evaluation and review was needed to create more systemic solutions for mass starvation.
Click to Enlarge
"The Biology of Human Starvation," Keys, Bozek, Henschel, 1950.
Through the Participants' Eyes
Using [unethically obtained] data would send the message that the experiment wasn't so bad after all, and even encourage morally blinkered doctors to do in their own unethical experiments.
"It would be possible... to use unethically obtained data to protect the public without creating an incentive for future breaches of the relevant ethical rules."
"Why do people who were drafted go to fight wars, without escaping? Because there's a duty. It's the same kind of a thing, just a different battlefield. And from our point of view at the time, it was a battlefield consistent with what our conscience would tell us. But it was a battlefield. And battlefields are not supposed to be easy."
- Max Kampleman, Minnesota Starvation Experiment participant, 1993