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Willowbrooke Essay

1154 words - 5 pages

The Willowbrook experiment was an opportunistic experiment in which mentally ill children were the victims of and parents were deceived into giving their consent through unethical means such as blackmail. Children were living in a school that was overcrowded and hepatitis was rampant. Instead of the school raising their sanitation standards they took advantage of this and began experimenting with the virus and injecting it into the children. These children had no idea what they were having done to them and no way to understand given their mental state. Some parents were told they would only accept their child if they placed them in the hepatitis wing and gave consent to be involved in ...view middle of the document...

The researches attempt to justify that the children were going to get the virus anyways. But they were getting the virus because the school chose not to do anything to improve the sanitation which resulted in sick kids and personnel. Looking at this experiment from a utilitarian stand point I do not agree that the experiment was justified. They could have easily preformed this experiment on adults who knew what was going on or lab rats.

Kantianism is when all actions are based on some universal principal and duty and there are no emotional thoughts involved. Similar to the old saying “what’s good for one, is good for all”. A Kantian could argue that since these children were mentally ill they are all as a group in some way involved in the experiment whether it’s indirectly or directly. But if you have duties or rules like “always tell the truth” then the Willowbrook School and University were in violation of this rule. They failed to tell the parents the full truth about the virus hepatitis and used coercion into getting their consent. They also violated another universal rule of “eliminate needless suffering”. Instead of doing their duty and cleaning the school, Willowbrook took advantage of their school being nasty and profited off of it by allowing such an experiment to take place. I trying to look at this from a Kantianism stand point and there are pros on both sides but in the end I do not think it is justified based on lying and doing more harm to the children.

Intuitionism or Ross’s Ethics are based on morals such as: do not injure patients, do not lie to patients, show patients kindness and understanding, educate patients based on what is useful to them and do not give false hope. If you look at the experiment I do not see how it was justified. First off they harmed the patients, by injecting them with hepatitis or allowing the disease to continue to infect other children by lack of sanitation. Willowbrook may not believe they lied to the parents of the children by telling them they would contract hepatitis during their stay but failed to mention exactly how harmful the virus is, they lied about the severity of the virus. And because they lied to them they were withholding information which led the parents to make an...

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