Experimenting on orphans


I expected the article to be about nutritional experiments that were performed on First Nations kids in Residential Schools.


The Canadian case is an atrocity because the Federal authorities has, well, the authority to intervene.

That is not the case in Romania, though. And it makes me wonder if it would be ethical NOT to study the ongoing tragedy being inflicted on Romanian orphans.

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I’d have to come down on the side of ‘ethical’ (though, obviously, “we want to do some research on a child population that relatively few people care about!” science should probably face additional scrutiny, as a genre); because, from the perspective of the research group’s ability to change anything, they are really just observing a natural experiment, not arranging one themselves.

Not really any different from an epidemiologist or toxicologist studying employees of ACME Toxin Smelter in order to determine the effects of some flavor of chemical exposure on human health. It’d be crazy unethical to do direct studies by exposing people to the compound.

It isn’t as though they could make the situation more ethical by looking away and ignoring it, nor less ethical by keeping detailed records.


I just have to look at the bright side - at least they weren’t American orphans. Foreigners are less of an ethical problem, right?

I vote it’s ethical as well, since these living arrangements are not likely to be changed and the intent is to provide better care in the future for these populations. Although it seems not altogether necessary considering there are other relevant studies, I don’t see how studying institutionalized children will cause them any additional harm. It is not as if they are painting all their rooms with lead paint.

In this particular experiment, no child was denied an opportunity to be in the better environment (foster home instead of orphanage). The researchers had to convince the government to set up a foster home system, and there were never enough of them even then. So while the experiment went on, it actually improved lives for some children, while the rest were no worse off than they would have been if no research were done. In fact, the control group in the orphanages benefited by receiving regular medical checkup that they wouldn’t have had otherwise. Under these circumstances, I feel it passes the ethical test.

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Given that for 99% of our past as a species it didn’t make sense to give a crap about more than a couple of hundred people or so, versus the nature and scale of our current plague, I think that’s a bit of a cheap shot.

But of course it’s hard to imagine us avoiding the likely fate of drowning in our own shit… I just hope the Intertron can somehow make a significant enough difference soon enough.

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