Science in the Service of Medicine and Law
Doctors . . . are applied scientists.
Americans share an ideology of the social function of medicine: a belief about the necessity of linking the practice of medicine to modern science, with all the social benefits and risks inherent in this institutional alliance. This powerful union makes innovation--the constant search for more effective treatments--the hallmark or "icon" of modern medicine. Several examples come to mind. The Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male--a dark chapter in our medical and public health history--has enduring significance for public policy debates. Our government's sponsorship of the Human Genome Project--a massive scientific and technological effort to discover the individual structures of the thousands of genes in the human species--demonstrates how the social role of science in the service of medicine has been institutionalized. Finally, the recent revelations in a government-appointed advisory group's report that perhaps thousands of individuals unknowingly took part in human radiation experiments after World War II dictate a reexamination of the actual meaning of supposed requirements of "informed consent" ethics and practices of American physicians and scientists.