Thursday, May 05, 2005

Experimental AIDS Drugs Tested On Foster Children

Late last year BBC News broke the story on how HIV-positive foster children in New York City had been used as guinea pigs for anti-AIDS drugs.

Today, an Associated Press article written by John Solomon, reveals that foster children in seven different states were included in research studies funded by the national Institutes of Health, primarily during the 1990s.

Many children did not have their participation in the tests approved by either their legal advocate or their natural parents.

According to the article,

Several studies that enlisted foster children reported patients suffered rashes, vomiting and sharp drops in infection-fighting blood cells. In one sstudy, researchers reported a "disturbing:" higher death rate among children who took higher doses of a drug.
Solomon is careful to explain that those responsible for the oversight of foster children were faced with a frustrating, disheartening and hopeless situation during much of the 1990s. The offer of free AIDS medication administered under the watchful eye of researchers seemed like a win-win opportunity.

The "moral urgency" of finding medical assistance for the children apparently caused many administrators to skirt the "legal red tape" of following established protocols and procedures designed to protect the legal rights of the children.

According to Solomon, "The U.S. Office for Human Research Protections, created to protect research participants after the infamous Tuskegee syphilis studies on black men, is investigating the use of foster children in AIDS research. The office declined to discuss the probe."

Personally, I am convinced that far more children benefitted from these studies than suffered from them. Yet, while I admire the efforts of Child Protection Agencies to help these children as best they could I can find no excuse for their not following the letter of the law.

Administrators should be held accountable for their failure to ensure that those who are most vulnerable in our society were in some way offered the legal right to say, "No."

It will be interesting to hear how the follow-up investigations will turn out. Were there pay-outs, quid pro quos or kick-backs involved in any of the tests?

It still puzzles me, however, that it was the BBC(!) that broke the story in the first place!