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Archive for February 27th, 2011

Are Kenyan women wearing the trousers?

Posted by Administrator on February 27, 2011

An African woman visiting the country for the first time recently had this to say about the Kenyan woman: “I find her arrogant, she talks too loudly and drinks too much. Then she added: But I admire her courage, confidence and pride. She has certainly come a long way.”

Eva Muraya: Not all Kenyan women are necessarily like the one described by the visitor, but I agree that compared to her Ugandan or Tanzanian counterparts, she does seem louder, more independent and confident.

Dr Chris Hart: This is not a unique phenomenon. The Kenyan woman’s transformation is part of a worldwide trend. Education has been a key driver of this transformation and it has helped propel the success of this woman.

Jane Karuku: The ability to achieve has always been there, even uneducated women display leadership traits.

Our grandmothers made key decisions on who went to school, when land could be sold, etc. It’s just that they did not appear to be the ones making the decisions — it was always the man’s decision.

Their confidence grew when they were left at home to fend for themselves as men went to the bush to fight the colonial masters.

Ken Ouko: The focus is no longer on a partner for child bearing purposes but a partner for economic progress.

Chris Hart: But urban women seem to be displaying this more, especially single women. The woman the visitor was talking about must be single.

Pinky Ghelani: No, married women also go out and you can find them in groups enjoying each other’s company.

I think the Kenyan woman has become extremely honest. When we want to go out we are bold enough to say so and we are honest about it. I think these other women are just not as honest.

Eva: Before you become bold, you have to be honest with yourself. Kenyan women are now in a position where they can express what is happening inside them. They have become bold after this self examination, which is good.

I know there are some who take things a bit too far but basically, I think it is because of this that many women are now able to express themselves and that scares the men a lot.

Moderator: Let’s move on: What effect has women’s ascendancy had on marriage, family life, the workplace?

Ken: There is a book I have out there in the market called Marriages Are Made In Heaven So Are Thunder And Lightning. Most of the stuff in the book is not the writer’s … most of it is a product, a result of what has been going on and in the Kenyan context two things have happened.

The Kenyan woman is not just a wife any more. She is a partner, unlike other women in the region, and she is very honest about it and she negotiates her place in the marriage. That has not happened in Uganda or in Zambia where women there still have the “yes sir” mentality.

Are you aware that Kenya ranks third in the world in terms of marital violence after Columbia and the United States? This is because the Kenyan man feels threatened by the woman’s increasing independence and batters his spouse and children to make his presence felt.

But the Kenyan woman has shed the wife tag and is now a partner to the husband, and she’s not doing badly. She is not a competitor but a partner in progress. They are collaborating and saying “let’s do it like this” and the man is listening.

But women between 25 and 35 are finding it hard to find a good male partner because they have become more confident, more demanding. Few men are confident enough to take them on in the marriage stakes, so my fear is that we are going to have a lot of single families.

Moderator: What about the man? How does he react to this new woman? Is he just a bystander?

Eva: I think a woman is not naturally domesticated but once she gets married with all the responsibilities that come with it, she buckles up and does what is necessary.

In marriage we juggle, we multi-task but give credit to the men because they allow us to be who we are. I hear a lot of women say they hang out with girlfriends and visit them, something our mothers did not do a lot. What’s different now is that we take time for ourselves. When it comes to doing what we want, we have become more confident, and that probably is why we come across as arrogant.

Chris: The problem is there are two sorts of men in this society. Those who have a job and those who don’t. How many of you ladies would marry an unemployed man?

In a society where male unemployment is very high, men are going to behave differently, won’t they and an awful lot of women are not going to marry them, so when we come back to your comment a few moments ago that women cannot find partners, or they do not want to marry somebody who is unemployed.

Now you could argue that the biggest change we could make to marital values in this country is to boost male employment but that is not government policy.

Eva: Actually female unemployment is also very high. Most women don’t go looking for jobs, an awful lot of women follow their grandmothers’ example and stay at home. But you all want to marry an employed man, don’t you? For most women, it isn’t a case that they can’t find a good partner. When you’ve ruled out the unemployed, then you start examining what your goals in life are.

Like if my goal in life is to have a good time, be independent and rise up the corporate hierarchy, then I better remain single and that is what is driving an awful lot of women to stay single until late in their lives. An awful lot of women are staying single for economic reasons, they want an income, they want the excitement of a career, they know they will only succeed in that if they are single.

Ken: Many men are also afraid of confronting their wives. But a time comes when they explode and that is why there is so much domestic violence because they think the only way to subjugate a woman is to fall back on the traditional solution, which is to beat her. But this only creates disharmony because the woman feels unappreciated. But I agree with Pinky that there are a lot of partnerships where men realise that instead of fighting, the couple can cooperate and achieve a lot.

Dr Njoki Fernandez: I will give an example of my own family because it illustrates completely what we are talking about.

I got married when I was very young, at 21, and in medical school. So for a long time, my husband was provider, care-giver and whatever and it was a role he enjoyed and did very well. But fortunately or unfortunately, you complete medical school, get employed and soon the money starts coming in and this girl starts showing signs of independence. The man freaked out. Soon there were all these fights about “now you think you have your own money you can do your own thing”.

I think I also took it a bit too far, telling him “don’t fuel my car, I can do it myself”. When I realised what was happening to us, I withdrew a bit and I allowed him to be the “one”. Now there is peace because I had taken over his role.

Angela Ambitho: How old was your husband?

Njoki: There’s a pretty well 19 year difference. But still, the point is that this is an experience from my marriage and it’s not something to debate…I realised that I was threatening to take over his role. If I go for a month without asking him for money, he panics because it is his job to provide. That’s a man’s job. I allow him to do his job, allow him to take me to the salon because he wants to do it.

Angela: You know why I asked the question? In our research, one of the things we found as the catalyst for divorce was that people are marrying their age mates.

If I am 30 and I marry someone of the same age, a problem usually arises because as a woman I think like a 35 or probably 40-year-old. My vision, my focus is so different from a 30-year-old.

What then tends to happen is that as you compete in the job market, you start moving ahead but this guy will not reason like someone who is 19 years older than you. The only recourse for him is violence, he beats you. He has no other way of “putting you in your place”. What then happens is you react angrily.

“How dare you do this to me? We went to school together and I was better than you. I bring in more money, I bought the car, I am paying the mortgage etc and you dare beat me.”

That’s what is happening in Kenya today in terms of marriage. If you look at the urban situation, you find that people often marry those they were at university with, grew up with, played with. I think that gap is necessary, a five, 10-year gap. But 19 years is bliss because you obviously look at things differently.  

Rhoda Orengo: I think Angela has said most of what I wanted to say but the difference is that Dr Fernandez had the wisdom to take a step back but with your age mate it will be difficult.

Let’s say I’m married to my age mate and we both lose our jobs. I start selling fish or second-hand clothing. But this man, because he can no longer be seen driving his BMW, is sitting in the house every day watching TV and inevitably the fighting begins. “Why are you sitting there all day doing nothing … after all I pay the mortgage and school fees. I can decide where we stay, where the kids go to school.”

He starts to feel emasculated and stops even trying.

Philip Kitoto: I think there is also the issue of absence from the home. A large number of spouses are no longer available at home during the time they should be. Not just the men who go out drinking but women who are going to college in pursuit of that MBA.

Moderator: Is this new woman happy?

Ann Gitao: I will tell you a very interesting thing about happiness. We are not happier than our grandparents, or our great-grandparents, we are not happier if we live in a rich society or poor society. We all seem to come back to the same level of happiness. I will make you a broad sort of prediction that these ladies, no matter what path their lives have taken, are about as happy as their grandmas were.  

Your genetic makeup, your natural instinct is to be a mother, to be a wife, to be all those things and you can never scrap that.

So I think you are only happy as a lady if you have that and you are feeling fulfilled. Hopefully, you end up with a good marriage and a good family and then on top of that you are living comfortably and living your other dream, your career growth. That’s what I’d describe as happy. I think it’s a completeness of some sort. So I would describe a happy woman as one who has fulfilled her natural instincts and continues to meet them and one who also meets her worldly needs and desires.

Having said that I do think that if we look at this woman as we have described her, the career woman who is probably at her peak, 30, 35, 40 and unmarried, I am afraid to say I don’t think she’s going to be as happy as her mother when she is 50 or as her peers or grandmother because when it’s all said and done and her career is at its peak and she’s the CEO, she has no child and at the end of the day these are things that make us human.

Pinky: You are right, for example if you talk to very old people they don’t describe the Mercedes Benz or house that they bought. They talk about their relationships.

So yes, the woman or for that matter the man who fights to be CEO and never gets married, never has children, is not happy. We have to have pillars. And I think that we are uniquely created for relationships and when we do not succeed in the level and quality of relationships that we’re engaged in, whether between partners, spouses or even mother, father, sister and children then we are sad people.

Mercedes or not, we were created for relationships, and those who subscribe, say to the Christian faith, know that it is about relationships. It begins and ends there, in between, throwing the Mercedes and anything else, but at the end of that journey, 60, 70, 85 years ends like his mother. Its about relationships, how at the end of the day.

Pinky: I think the woman that we’ve described is constantly on the go and probably does not have enough time to sit down and ask herself whether she is really happy or not and I agree, I think she’s incomplete. She feels it, which is why she continues to look for things to achieve. She looks for challenges.

I wouldn’t be quick to make that judgement because this point and time she probably does have, she has a boyfriend, right, she’s content, she has her power-say, she has her work but what I was saying is down the line she’s going to have pre-mature empty-nest stage, where she is really in a empty-nest all by herself and at that point as a human being whose a creature of you know humanity you cannot be happy.

Moderator: What frontiers are left for her to conquer?

Chris: I think one of the biggest problem is, the people are not very honest, not many people are in this area. I think when you survey people and you ask, are you happy, they usually say yes and single people say they are happy.

Now they don’t say that they will be happier if they were also having a life they also wanted to live and they were married and whatever.

So I think one often comes across people who say they are very happy being single, they’re very happy being CEO but they do know they miss something.

Ann: But Chris having said that, just to reinforce your point, studies that have been done not so much in Kenya but in Europe show very clearly that one of the drivers for happiness is marriage. So married people are certainly much happier than single people. Single people may think they are happy. 

Source: http://www.nation.co.ke/News/Are+Kenyan+women+wearing+the+trousers++/-/1056/1115030/-/h6s70qz/-/index.html

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Kenya’s Mentally Ill Locked Up And Forgotten

Posted by Administrator on February 27, 2011

The tin shack looks like any other in a patch of small plots on the dusty outskirts of Nairobi. It’s the haunting sound that grabs you, the awful moaning and cries coming from within.

It’s Thomas Matoke’s home. But it’s more like a cell. Matoke, 33, is tied to a steel bedframe with a piece of blue rope. He’s surrounded by pools of his urine, his mattress soiled and ripped to shreds.

His moans are interrupted when he chews his hand or the bedframe. He can’t speak to tell his mother what he wants or feels. He’s alone in his world of screams and agony.

He’s been like this for 30 years.

Matoke got ill when he was a toddler and lost much of his high-level functioning. So his mother ties him up to prevent him from running away or hurting himself.

Countless trips to doctors and hospitals haven’t helped him. And poverty means there isn’t much medical help his family can afford.

“His siblings ask whether we wronged God, because we are really suffering,” said his mom, Milkah Moraa. “I can’t even hang his clothes outside because of the stink. The neighbors complain.”

Shunned by the community, Moraa does what little she can to ease his agony. Her life is consumed by trying to take care of her sick son.

But Matoke is not alone.

There are an estimated 3 million, mostly poor, Kenyans living with intellectual and mental disabilities, according to NGO and United Nations figures.

As part of a special investigation, CNN found that families are struggling to cope with their loved ones, receiving little help from the state and facing massive stigma from society.

CNN’s team filmed families locking up their loved ones, children discarded by institutions, cases of suspected sexual abuse. Kenya faces an epidemic of neglect.

“It is such a huge problem,” said Edah Maina, head of the Kenya Society for the Mentally Handicapped. “If somebody would understand the extent it is huge, then I think someone can begin to act.”

But often, Maina and her charity are the only ones acting. Scores of cases of neglect and abuse flood their office every day: autistic children chained in chicken coops, epileptic adults sealed in filthy shacks, daughters raped by their fathers. They are overwhelmed.

Dr. Frank Njenga, president of the African Association of Psychiatrists and a leading expert in the field, believes the scale is “catastrophic.”

“We as a people have perfected the system of hiding our friends, relatives and other loved ones who have intellectual disability away from sight,” Njenga said. “Out of sight, out of mind, no funding, neglected completely.”

He says that the greatest neglect comes from the Kenyan government.

How teenager Kennedy survives

The Kenyan government spends less than 1% of its health budget on mental health, though its own figures show that one-quarter of all patients going to hospitals or clinics complain of mental health issues.

And the Health and Medical Services ministries have been plagued by a series of corruption scandals in recent years.

More than $3 billion in public money was stolen in 2009, according to the Kenyan Ministry of Finance. This could have funded the entire ministry responsible for mental health — for 10 years.

The minister of medical services, Anyang Nyong’o, says mental health is a high priority, but it needs more funding from his central government.

“It is definitely starved of resources, and that is not because we want to intentionally starve mental health; that is because the resource base as we have for running health services is very narrow,” he said.

“The policy is very clear,” Njenga said. “Mental health services are a priority in this country. The practice is also clear. They are not.”

Whatever the cause, it is ordinary Kenyan families who suffer. And often, it’s mothers who toil alone. Thomas Matoke’s father has been absent for most of the past 30 years. Moraa says Matoke’s condition pushed him out.

“For how long will I carry this burden?” she asked. “Since I got married, I have not had joy the way other people have joy. I have tried to encourage myself and think ‘God help me, because I have carried this burden for a long time.’ ”

They have been chased away from village after village by angry, fearful neighbors. And soon, she fears, they will have to move away from this place as well.

Links to the Kenyan issues

When the weather is good, she takes Thomas from his makeshift cell and ties him to an acacia tree outside. If she lets him go, he runs off. What she most wants is a place where he can get proper care.

But she says there is little chance of that happening.

WATCH VIDEOS HERE

VIDEO 1

VIDEO 2

VIDEO 3

Source: http://edition.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/africa/02/25/kenya.forgotten.health/

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KCSE results to be released Monday

Posted by Administrator on February 27, 2011

The Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education national examinations results will be released on Monday.

Close to 358,000 students who sat for the examination in October will know their fate when Education Minister Prof Sam Ongeri makes the much awaited announcement at the Kenya National Exam Council department of examinations administration in Hurlingham from 9am.

The number of candidates who sat the exams rose from 336,156 in 2009 to 357,789. There is anxiety among the candidates as they await the results.

Girls performed poorly last year and all eyes are on them to see if this time they will conquer the boys.

Boys last year dominated the top 10 positions in the 2009 KCSE results with the first girl coming in the 11th position nationally.

David Gathuku Ndung’u of Mangu High School emerged the best candidate in last year’s KCSE with 87.26 points.

Source: http://www.kbc.co.ke/news.asp?nid=69117

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Somalia’s al Shabaab threatens to attack Kenya

Posted by Administrator on February 27, 2011

MOGADISHU (Reuters) – Somali’s hardline rebel group al Shabaab threatened on Sunday to attack neighbouring Kenya for training Somali government forces and allowing Ethiopian troops to operate from its towns.

The group, which is aligned to al Qaeda, has said before that it would attack Kenya but so far has never done so.

Last year, the insurgent group bombed Uganda in twin attacks that killed nearly 80 people. It said it was in retaliation for Kampala providing peacekeeping troops that have helped Somalia’s government stay in power.

“Kenya has constantly disturbed us, and now it should face the consequences of allowing Ethiopian troops to attack us from Mandera town,” al Shabaab spokesman Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage told a news conference.

The threat comes in the wake of a new government offensive that has seen Somali forces claw back parts of Mogadishu.

Somali troops backed by government-friendly militia have launched operations in several towns across central and southern Somalia including the al Shabaab-controlled border town of Balad Hawa, a few kilometres from the Kenyan town of Mandera, and Ethiopia.

Somali troop numbers have been bolstered by the deployment of hundreds of new recruits trained in Kenya and Ethiopia, local residents and security sources say.

“We have never openly fought Kenya but now we shall not tolerate any more. Kenya has been training soldiers to attack us. It has also given bases to Somali forces we drove away from Kismayu,” Rage said.

KENYANS FLEE BORDER TOWN

Al Shabaab has also threatened to hit Ethiopia and Burundi, which has troops protecting the western-backed government in Mogadishu.

Last year, a video posted on the Internet showed chanting men that claimed to be al Shabaab threatening to hit Nairobi for a crackdown on Somalis in the country.

Al Shabaab spokesman Rage disowned the posting then and said he had no idea who was responsible for uploading it.

Kenya has been a victim of al Qaeda strikes twice in the past — a 1998 bombing of the U.S. embassy in Nairobi and an explosion at an Israeli-owned hotel at the coast in 2002.

The fighting in Somalia’s Balad Hawa has paralysed life in the Kenyan town of Mandera and forced residents with homes close to the boarder further inland, an aid official told Reuters.

“Mandera is now a battle ground. Several stray bullets from Somalia and Ethiopia have come towards us. So far more than 15 people have been injured,” a staff member at a charitable organisation in Mandera told Reuters.

Some foreigners working for international non-governmental organisations had also left the town for the capital, he said.

Source: http://af.reuters.com/article/topNews/idAFJOE71Q06920110227?sp=true

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AP IMPACT: Ugly US medical experiments uncovered

Posted by Administrator on February 27, 2011

ATLANTA — Shocking as it may seem, U.S. government doctors once thought it was fine to experiment on disabled people and prison inmates. Such experiments included giving hepatitis to mental patients in Connecticut, squirting a pandemic flu virus up the noses of prisoners in Maryland, and injecting cancer cells into chronically ill people at a New York hospital.

Much of this horrific history is 40 to 80 years old, but it is the backdrop for a meeting in Washington this week by a presidential bioethics commission. The meeting was triggered by the government’s apology last fall for federal doctors infecting prisoners and mental patients in Guatemala with syphilis 65 years ago.

U.S. officials also acknowledged there had been dozens of similar experiments in the United States – studies that often involved making healthy people sick.

An exhaustive review by The Associated Press of medical journal reports and decades-old press clippings found more than 40 such studies. At best, these were a search for lifesaving treatments; at worst, some amounted to curiosity-satisfying experiments that hurt people but provided no useful results.

Inevitably, they will be compared to the well-known Tuskegee syphilis study. In that episode, U.S. health officials tracked 600 black men in Alabama who already had syphilis but didn’t give them adequate treatment even after penicillin became available.

These studies were worse in at least one respect – they violated the concept of “first do no harm,” a fundamental medical principle that stretches back centuries.

“When you give somebody a disease – even by the standards of their time – you really cross the key ethical norm of the profession,” said Arthur Caplan, director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Bioethics.

Some of these studies, mostly from the 1940s to the ’60s, apparently were never covered by news media. Others were reported at the time, but the focus was on the promise of enduring new cures, while glossing over how test subjects were treated.

Attitudes about medical research were different then. Infectious diseases killed many more people years ago, and doctors worked urgently to invent and test cures. Many prominent researchers felt it was legitimate to experiment on people who did not have full rights in society – people like prisoners, mental patients, poor blacks. It was an attitude in some ways similar to that of Nazi doctors experimenting on Jews.

“There was definitely a sense – that we don’t have today – that sacrifice for the nation was important,” said Laura Stark, a Wesleyan University assistant professor of science in society, who is writing a book about past federal medical experiments.

The AP review of past research found:

-A federally funded study begun in 1942 injected experimental flu vaccine in male patients at a state insane asylum in Ypsilanti, Mich., then exposed them to flu several months later. It was co-authored by Dr. Jonas Salk, who a decade later would become famous as inventor of the polio vaccine.

Some of the men weren’t able to describe their symptoms, raising serious questions about how well they understood what was being done to them. One newspaper account mentioned the test subjects were “senile and debilitated.” Then it quickly moved on to the promising results.

-In federally funded studies in the 1940s, noted researcher Dr. W. Paul Havens Jr. exposed men to hepatitis in a series of experiments, including one using patients from mental institutions in Middletown and Norwich, Conn. Havens, a World Health Organization expert on viral diseases, was one of the first scientists to differentiate types of hepatitis and their causes.

A search of various news archives found no mention of the mental patients study, which made eight healthy men ill but broke no new ground in understanding the disease.

-Researchers in the mid-1940s studied the transmission of a deadly stomach bug by having young men swallow unfiltered stool suspension. The study was conducted at the New York State Vocational Institution, a reformatory prison in West Coxsackie. The point was to see how well the disease spread that way as compared to spraying the germs and having test subjects breathe it. Swallowing it was a more effective way to spread the disease, the researchers concluded. The study doesn’t explain if the men were rewarded for this awful task.

-A University of Minnesota study in the late 1940s injected 11 public service employee volunteers with malaria, then starved them for five days. Some were also subjected to hard labor, and those men lost an average of 14 pounds. They were treated for malarial fevers with quinine sulfate. One of the authors was Ancel Keys, a noted dietary scientist who developed K-rations for the military and the Mediterranean diet for the public. But a search of various news archives found no mention of the study.

-For a study in 1957, when the Asian flu pandemic was spreading, federal researchers sprayed the virus in the noses of 23 inmates at Patuxent prison in Jessup, Md., to compare their reactions to those of 32 virus-exposed inmates who had been given a new vaccine.

-Government researchers in the 1950s tried to infect about two dozen volunteering prison inmates with gonorrhea using two different methods in an experiment at a federal penitentiary in Atlanta. The bacteria was pumped directly into the urinary tract through the penis, according to their paper.

The men quickly developed the disease, but the researchers noted this method wasn’t comparable to how men normally got infected – by having sex with an infected partner. The men were later treated with antibiotics. The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, but there was no mention of it in various news archives.

Though people in the studies were usually described as volunteers, historians and ethicists have questioned how well these people understood what was to be done to them and why, or whether they were coerced.

Prisoners have long been victimized for the sake of science. In 1915, the U.S. government’s Dr. Joseph Goldberger – today remembered as a public health hero – recruited Mississippi inmates to go on special rations to prove his theory that the painful illness pellagra was caused by a dietary deficiency. (The men were offered pardons for their participation.)

But studies using prisoners were uncommon in the first few decades of the 20th century, and usually performed by researchers considered eccentric even by the standards of the day. One was Dr. L.L. Stanley, resident physician at San Quentin prison in California, who around 1920 attempted to treat older, “devitalized men” by implanting in them testicles from livestock and from recently executed convicts.

Newspapers wrote about Stanley’s experiments, but the lack of outrage is striking.

“Enter San Quentin penitentiary in the role of the Fountain of Youth – an institution where the years are made to roll back for men of failing mentality and vitality and where the spring is restored to the step, wit to the brain, vigor to the muscles and ambition to the spirit. All this has been done, is being done … by a surgeon with a scalpel,” began one rosy report published in November 1919 in The Washington Post.

Around the time of World War II, prisoners were enlisted to help the war effort by taking part in studies that could help the troops. For example, a series of malaria studies at Stateville Penitentiary in Illinois and two other prisons was designed to test antimalarial drugs that could help soldiers fighting in the Pacific.

It was at about this time that prosecution of Nazi doctors in 1947 led to the “Nuremberg Code,” a set of international rules to protect human test subjects. Many U.S. doctors essentially ignored them, arguing that they applied to Nazi atrocities – not to American medicine.

The late 1940s and 1950s saw huge growth in the U.S. pharmaceutical and health care industries, accompanied by a boom in prisoner experiments funded by both the government and corporations. By the 1960s, at least half the states allowed prisoners to be used as medical guinea pigs.

But two studies in the 1960s proved to be turning points in the public’s attitude toward the way test subjects were treated.

The first came to light in 1963. Researchers injected cancer cells into 19 old and debilitated patients at a Jewish Chronic Disease Hospital in the New York borough of Brooklyn to see if their bodies would reject them.

The hospital director said the patients were not told they were being injected with cancer cells because there was no need – the cells were deemed harmless. But the experiment upset a lawyer named William Hyman who sat on the hospital’s board of directors. The state investigated, and the hospital ultimately said any such experiments would require the patient’s written consent.

At nearby Staten Island, from 1963 to 1966, a controversial medical study was conducted at the Willowbrook State School for children with mental retardation. The children were intentionally given hepatitis orally and by injection to see if they could then be cured with gamma globulin.

Those two studies – along with the Tuskegee experiment revealed in 1972 – proved to be a “holy trinity” that sparked extensive and critical media coverage and public disgust, said Susan Reverby, the Wellesley College historian who first discovered records of the syphilis study in Guatemala.

By the early 1970s, even experiments involving prisoners were considered scandalous. In widely covered congressional hearings in 1973, pharmaceutical industry officials acknowledged they were using prisoners for testing because they were cheaper than chimpanzees.

Holmesburg Prison in Philadelphia made extensive use of inmates for medical experiments. Some of the victims are still around to talk about it. Edward “Yusef” Anthony, featured in a book about the studies, says he agreed to have a layer of skin peeled off his back, which was coated with searing chemicals to test a drug. He did that for money to buy cigarettes in prison.

“I said ‘Oh my God, my back is on fire! Take this … off me!'” Anthony said in an interview with The Associated Press, as he recalled the beginning of weeks of intense itching and agonizing pain.

The government responded with reforms. Among them: The U.S. Bureau of Prisons in the mid-1970s effectively excluded all research by drug companies and other outside agencies within federal prisons.

As the supply of prisoners and mental patients dried up, researchers looked to other countries.

It made sense. Clinical trials could be done more cheaply and with fewer rules. And it was easy to find patients who were taking no medication, a factor that can complicate tests of other drugs.

Additional sets of ethical guidelines have been enacted, and few believe that another Guatemala study could happen today. “It’s not that we’re out infecting anybody with things,” Caplan said.

Still, in the last 15 years, two international studies sparked outrage.

One was likened to Tuskegee. U.S.-funded doctors failed to give the AIDS drug AZT to all the HIV-infected pregnant women in a study in Uganda even though it would have protected their newborns. U.S. health officials argued the study would answer questions about AZT’s use in the developing world.

The other study, by Pfizer Inc., gave an antibiotic named Trovan to children with meningitis in Nigeria, although there were doubts about its effectiveness for that disease. Critics blamed the experiment for the deaths of 11 children and the disabling of scores of others. Pfizer settled a lawsuit with Nigerian officials for $75 million but admitted no wrongdoing.

Last year, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ inspector general reported that between 40 and 65 percent of clinical studies of federally regulated medical products were done in other countries in 2008, and that proportion probably has grown. The report also noted that U.S. regulators inspected fewer than 1 percent of foreign clinical trial sites.

Monitoring research is complicated, and rules that are too rigid could slow new drug development. But it’s often hard to get information on international trials, sometimes because of missing records and a paucity of audits, said Dr. Kevin Schulman, a Duke University professor of medicine who has written on the ethics of international studies.

These issues were still being debated when, last October, the Guatemala study came to light.

In the 1946-48 study, American scientists infected prisoners and patients in a mental hospital in Guatemala with syphilis, apparently to test whether penicillin could prevent some sexually transmitted disease. The study came up with no useful information and was hidden for decades.

The Guatemala study nauseated ethicists on multiple levels. Beyond infecting patients with a terrible illness, it was clear that people in the study did not understand what was being done to them or were not able to give their consent. Indeed, though it happened at a time when scientists were quick to publish research that showed frank disinterest in the rights of study participants, this study was buried in file drawers.

“It was unusually unethical, even at the time,” said Stark, the Wesleyan researcher.

“When the president was briefed on the details of the Guatemalan episode, one of his first questions was whether this sort of thing could still happen today,” said Rick Weiss, a spokesman for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

That it occurred overseas was an opening for the Obama administration to have the bioethics panel seek a new evaluation of international medical studies. The president also asked the Institute of Medicine to further probe the Guatemala study, but the IOM relinquished the assignment in November, after reporting its own conflict of interest: In the 1940s, five members of one of the IOM’s sister organizations played prominent roles in federal syphilis research and had links to the Guatemala study.

So the bioethics commission gets both tasks. To focus on federally funded international studies, the commission has formed an international panel of about a dozen experts in ethics, science and clinical research. Regarding the look at the Guatemala study, the commission has hired 15 staff investigators and is working with additional historians and other consulting experts.

The panel is to send a report to Obama by September. Any further steps would be up to the administration.

Some experts say that given such a tight deadline, it would be a surprise if the commission produced substantive new information about past studies. “They face a really tough challenge,” Caplan said.

—Source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/02/27/AR2011022700988.html

Posted in US News | Comments Off on AP IMPACT: Ugly US medical experiments uncovered

 
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