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Health Care Analysis

, Volume 24, Issue 3, pp 246–259

First Online: 04 August 2015DOI: 10.1007-s10728-015-0304-0

Cite this article as: Wilson, D. Health Care Anal 2016 24: 246. doi:10.1007-s10728-015-0304-0


Recent books, articles and plays about the ‘immortal’ HeLa cell line have prompted renewed interest in the history of tissue culture methods that were first employed in 1907 and became common experimental tools during the twentieth century. Many of these sources claim tissue cultures like HeLa had a -troubled past- because medical researchers did not seek informed consent before using tissues in research, contravening a long held desire for self-determination on the part of patients and the public. In this article, I argue these claims are unfair and misleading. No professional guidelines required informed consent for tissue culture during the early and mid twentieth century, and popular sources expressed no concern at the widespread use of human tissues in research. When calls for informed consent did emerge in the 1970s and 1980s, moreover, they reflected specific political changes and often emanated from medical researchers themselves. I conclude by arguing that more balanced histories of tissue culture can make a decisive contribution to public debates today: by refuting a false dichotomy between science and its publics, and showing how ethical concepts such as informed consent arise from a historically specific engagement between professional and social groups.

KeywordsEthics HeLa History Informed consent Tissue culture  Download fulltext PDF

Autor: Duncan Wilson

Fuente: https://link.springer.com/

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