The ethical dilemmas facing both science and the public at large are dramatically exemplified by the problems arising out of human experimentation. It is the purpose of this essay to illustrate these complex and troublesome questions with specific examples from two areas: the field of immunization and that of drug development.
The national polio-vaccine field trials of a decade ago are now generally looked upon as a milestone of scientific and social progress. Poliomyelitis, for centuries a dreaded maimer and killer, is now almost as extinct as the dodo. Because of the Salk and Sabin vaccines, countless children and adults will be spared death or a lifetime of residual paralytic disability. It is thus especially easy to forget the substantial ethical problems posed by these trials.
The field-trial design which was ultimately used, and which clearly demonstrated the benefits of the vaccine, was not arrived at without argument. At one point, it was proposed that volunteers should constitute the treated group, and nonvolunteers the untreated controls. In view