Commentary: Differential Human Life Value Perception, Guatemala Experiment and Bioethics
The objective of this opinionated paper is to reflect on the potential of perceptions of different values of human life in influencing ethics violations particularly in health and medical research. It is posited that sometimes members of the research community perceive their own lives as being more precious than other lives. The factor discussed for bioethical violations is the perception of different levels of importance of human lives of people of different races, cultures, regions, countries or ethnic origins in the minds of fellow humans. The experiments carried out on Jews in Nazi camps, African-American people in The Tuskegee experiment, and Guatemalans in The Guatemala Syphilis experiment point to this perception. More often than not, the learned medical scientists know what morally sound medical research is, as is brought forward by an example of Guatemala study; however, sometimes they resort to bioethical violations presumably influenced by their perception of value for other human lives. The researchers for clinical or experimental trials are often drawn to inhabitants of underdeveloped or developing nations as they perceive that if in case there is any harm to the clinical subjects’ health, there won’t be any big payouts; as the worth of those subjects is less than clinical subjects in a developed country. In some of the unethical human experimentations, the affected populations were vulnerable due to their social or economic conditions: being war personnel, mentally depressed or being inmates in prisons. This vulnerability of the subjects makes the researcher throw away the concept of ‘equality in the value of human life’. It is the opinion of the author that as long as this mentality of different values of human life persists, it will have the potential to feed into ethical violations in spite of regulations or laws.