Willowbrook was a state school for mentally disabled children located in Staten Island, New York. The school had a population of more than 5000 students by the year of 1960, and was noted by school officials to have a prevalence of hepatitis infection amongst both students and staff. In order to subdue this widespread virus, “a research group led by Saul Krugman and Joan P. Giles of the New York University School of Medicine initiated a long-range study of viral hepatitis at Willowbrook” (Munson,38). This study, which will soon be discussed in further detail, consisted of intentionally infecting Willowbrook students with hepatitis, and was thus a very ethically controversial issue and continues to be so today. I will be portraying the facts of this study and discussing why I believe it was an acceptable experiment. The details of this case may offer further insight into the admissibility of experimenting on children as long as there is parental consent and the consenting parents are fully aware of all details of the experiment.
According to Dictionary.com hepatitis is an “inflammation of the liver, caused by a virus or a toxin and characterized by jaundice, liver enlargement, and fever.” Hepatitis could also result in the liver’s tissue being destroyed and its “functions impaired” (Munson, 38). The disease is known to be transmitted through oral contact with feces or bodily secretions of an infected individual. The intent of the Willowbrook experiment was to test the effectiveness of Gamma globulin in fighting off hepatitis. In order to obtain unbiased results, the researchers had to guarantee that the students they injected with Gamma globulin did come into contact with hepatitis. Had they relied on Gamma globulin injected patients to acquire hepatitis by natural exposure through other infected students, it could not be accurately determined if Gamma globulin was successful in immunizing the student from hepatitis, or if the student never would have...
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