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Massachusetts Medical Society




Shortly before the beginning of Operation Desert Storm, during Desert Shield, the U.S. military sought a waiver of requirements for informed consent for the use of investigational drugs and vaccines on our troops in the Persian Gulf. The danger of chemical and biologic warfare was seen as demanding this waiver, although the Nuremberg Code, other codes of medical ethics, and respect for the human rights of American soldiers seemed to caution against it. One year later it seems reasonable to review this decision. The legal maneuvering to revise consent regulations for wartime conditions provides a case study that highlights three separable issues: how easily the line between therapy and experimentation can become blurred; the differences between law and ethics; and the ethical obligations of physicians when the interests of their patients conflict with the interests of their employer.


From The New England Journal of Medicine, George J. Annas, Changing the Consent Rules for Desert Storm, Volume 326, Page 770 Copyright ©(1992) Massachusetts Medical Society. Reprinted with permission.

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