September 27, 2022

Call for renewal of bioethics in military

Bioethicist Steven Miles, of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, has called for a renewal of military medical ethics in the US.
Bioethicist Steven Miles,
of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, has called for a renewal of
military medical ethics
in the US. Writing in the journal Bioethics, he says that medical ethics
in the US “has not articulated a vision to strengthen the military-civilian
dialogue to ensure that standards of medical ethics do not evolve simply
according to the dictates of military policy.” The trial of Nazi medical
leaders at Nuremberg “had a profound effect on research ethics”, and US
experiences – including exposing soldiers to thermonuclear blasts – during the
Cold War “all led to debate and policy change.” However, he is concerned that
lessons have not been learned from more recent violations of medical ethics in
the US military.

Miles criticised how the
American Medical Association (AMA) responded to the mistreatment of prisoners
at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. He also claimed that prophylactic drugs were
administered to “two hundred and fifty thousand deployed soldiers” to protect
them from potential exposure to chemical or biological weapons in combat – but
that the efficacy of these drugs “was theoretically plausible but not
clinically proven.”

“Asserting
that informed consent would obstruct the program and thereby harm military
readiness, United States’ regulations were amended to enable the drug to be
given to soldiers without their informed consent. This regulation, as quoted
and discussed in Annas and Grodin, violated the Nuremberg code provision that
no experiment could be done without informed consent.” 

Miles continued:

“A
new kind of forum to sustain a dialogue between civilian medical ethics and
military leaders is needed. Such a forum might be established in the National
Academy of Sciences or some other comparable group. The aim of this dialogue
would be to assure that medical professional norms inform the development of
policies for military clinicians and the use of tactics that threaten the
health of civilians or demobilized soldiers. Such a forum would have three
functions: (1) to deliberate in an appropriately transparent manner on
health-relevant war tactics and policies; (2) to ensure that policies governing
the roles of military clinicians conform to relevant standards of medical
professionalism; and (3) to serve as a venue for scholarship of military
medical ethics.” ~ Bioethics, Jul
13

Call for renewal of bioethics in military
Jared Yee
bioethics
research
US