The research community was shocked in September to learn that American scientists in the 1940s had conducted Tuskegee-like experiments in Guatemala. Whereas the Tuskegee victims were denied the standard-of-care treatment for syphilis at the time so the researchers could watch the disease progress, the scientists in Guatemala went further and deliberately infected the research participants with syphilis, gonorrhea, or chancroid.
President Obama's Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues released a report on the experiments with recommendations for how to compensate the victims of such unethical behavior. Now, says ScienceInsider's Jocelyn Kaiser, the panel has released a second, more detailed, report stating that while volunteers for federally funded research are well-protected by ethics rules, there are some areas where the rules can be tightened. The panel says that "the United States needs to do a better job of tracking human studies," Kaiser reports, "and it should consider creating a system to compensate injured volunteers." The commission recommended that federal agencies should be required to publicize basic information about each project funded with government money, such as who the investigators are and what the study is about. "The commission also offers recommendations for an ongoing revamp of the Common Rule, including: developing simple, standard informed consent forms; allowing multi-site studies to go through a central ethics review; and easing review requirements for studies that pose minimal risk," Kaiser adds.