Healthcare studies are held on a higher ethical standard due to their direct relationship with human participants. Healthcare professionals are required to apply ethical principles in managing the participants in their studies. Research studies involving human participants are required to adhere to ethical principles such as respect to participants, beneficence, and justice. Miss Evers Boys film was based on a research conducted on a group of African American men who had been infected with Syphilis. The men were allowed to die after receiving treatment for a short time, and being used as test subjects to study the effects of the disease on the African American population over time. This journal is based on the events that occurred the day that Miss Evers had been recruited to participate in the study and was informed that the funding obtained from the Federal government was meant for research and not for treating the men.
According to the doctor, the research would be conducted for six months or at most one years before the Federal Government releases the funding to treat the men. As healthcare practitioners, we are supposed to adhere to the ethical principle of, “do no harm” and as such, provision of continuous treatment to these men would be more beneficial to them as compared to conducting a research project without treatment. According to the principle of beneficence, our actions should promote “good” based on the moral obligation that we have towards our patients. Considering that the symptoms of this disease are likely to start crippling the patients’ health after approximately ten years, by allowing the study to be conducted for the one year, the patients will be able to access proper treatment afterwards (Arnold & Boggs, 2016; Schroder-Back, Duncan, Sherlaw, Brall, & Czabanowska, 2014). Although this decision would go against other principles such as the right that patients have to be given information about their healthcare, it would be in support of the principle of doing the ultimate good for the patients because after the research they will be able to access better treatment for their illness.
Choosing to abandon this project because of its inability to adhere to the principle of non-maleficence (do no harm) would leave the men, who I initially convinced to come to this hospital for assessment and treatment, at the mercy of the results obtained from this research. Considering the way the initial funding for the treatment was cut after months of treatment, there is a high likelihood that after the current project, the Federal government might stop funding the treatment for the men, which would increase their risk of mortality. On the other hand, if I choose to stay and work with the doctors on this research, I would be required to keep information about the lack of treatment from the participants, thereby leading them to believe that they were still receiving treatment, while we were actually using placebo drugs to study the effects of the disease on their body. However, it gives the men a chance for receiving the actual treatment after a year of conducting the study on them using the federal funds.
Decision and Justification
I consider myself obligated to promoting the health of these men. As such, although the decision not to tell the patients about this current change of course does not sit well with me, I will continue with the project. Aside from my role as a nurse, as a friend to most of these men, I intend to stay and console them, rather than abandon them. I plan to help them during the research in any way that I can, through consolation, provision of pain relief medication available through the project, and keeping them company during the clinical procedures. Leaving them at the hands of the Federal government research without someone that they can trust, would increase their likelihood of leaving the project and considering their African American race, they are less likely to be prioritized for syphilis treatment elsewhere. The research gives them the opportunity to be viewed as being similar to the Whites through the pathophysiology of the disease. It also increases the likelihood of access to the same treatment offered to Whites affected by this disease.
Although the decision made by Nurse Every was not ethical, when considering aspects such as racial discrimination and the issues of funding for treatment that affected the Tuskegee Hospital during that period, choosing to stay with the men and conducting the research on them was the best decision. However, the rightness of this decision cannot be justified after a few years had passed and no treatment was offered to the participants despite the discovery of appropriate treatment after that.
Arnold, E. C., & Boggs, K. U. (2016). Interpersonal Relationships: Professional Communication Skills for Nurses, 7th ed. Elsevier Saunders.
Schroder-Back, P., Duncan, P., Sherlaw, W., Brall, C., & Czabanowska, K. (2014). Teaching Seven Principles for Public Health Ethics: Towards A Curriculum for a Short Course on Ethics in Public Health Programmes. BMC Med Central, 15:73. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4196023/.