President’s Bioethics Commission Releases Report on Human Research Protections

January 17, 2012

by Paula Skedsvold

In November 2010, President Obama tasked the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues with conducting “a thorough review of human subjects protection to determine if Federal regulations and international standards adequately guard the health and well-being of participants in scientific studies supported by the Federal Government.” The request came on the heels of revelations that in the 1940s the U.S. Public Health Services conducted research on sexually transmitted diseases in Guatemala that involved intentionally infecting on vulnerable human populations. The President also charged the Commission with conducting an investigation of the 1940s research.

In its recently-released report, Moral Science: Protecting Participants in Human Subjects Research, the Commission found that the “U.S. system provides substantial protections for the health, rights, and welfare of research subjects.” The Commission’s Chair, Amy Gutmann, Ph.D., stated: “The Commission is confident that what happened in Guatemala in the 1940s could not happen today.” However, the Commission thought there were areas in which improvements could be made to the rules and regulations to increase accountability. 

Read the Presidental Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues' Moral Science: Protecting Participants in Human Subjects Research»

Read the report on the Commission’s fact-finding investigation in Guatemala»