Sunday, October 30, 2011
Bioethics Hall of Fame, Henry K. Beecher Edition
My second nomination to the notional Bioethics Hall of Fame is Henry K. Beecher. Beecher, an distinguished anaesthesiologist, wrote a highly influential 1955 paper on the placebo effect; wrote a then-controversial 1966 paper which served as the single most important goad to regulation of research on human subjects; was one of the cast of all-star contributors to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences influential 1969 book, "Experimentation with Human Subjects" (Paul Freund, ed.); and chaired the Harvard Medical School ad hoc committee whose report supplied the first generally accepted criteria for brain death. Less well-known is Beecher's post-war work on LSD and mind-control, some of which was done on unconsenting subjects. Indeed, it may have been this military and CIA-sponsored work which led him, shortly thereafter, to embrace the necessity of informed consent.