Monday, October 22, 2007

Memory Hole (22 October): What happened this day?

Scientific Misconduct Blog Memory Hole: Events of October the 22nd


97 years ago today: Dr Crippen found guilty - wrongly

On 22 October 1910 Dr. Crippen was convicted at the Old Bailey of poisoning his wife and was later hanged in London. In England, Crippen worked for a homeopathic pharmaceutical company. This month Science Magazine reported that based on mtDNA comparison with matrilineal relatives, the body found beneath Crippen's home was definitely not that of Cora Crippen.
Reference: Notorious Dr Crippen wrongly hanged, Science 16 Oct 2007


70 years ago today: Dr A.S Calhoun on responsibility

On 22 October 1937 this letter was written by Dr. A.S. Calhoun. It was part of a key incident leading to a change in medicines regulation:

"But to realize that six human beings, all of them my patients, one of them my best friend, are dead because they took medicine that I prescribed for them innocently, and to realize that medicine which I had used for years in such cases suddenly had become a deadly poison in its newest and most modern form, as recommended by a great and reputable pharmaceutical firm in Tennessee: well, that realization has given me such days and nights of mental and spiritual agony as I did not believe a human being could undergo and survive. I have known hours when death for me would be a welcome relief from this agony."
(Letter from Dr. A.S. Calhoun, October 22, 1937)

The medicine that killed Dr. Calhoun's patients was Elixir Sulfanilamide (Read more here).

The question is whether our sense of personal responsibility for failing to examine science and integrity should be any different in 2007 given a semblance of "regulation". I like this quote from Dr. A. Dale Console, former medical director for drug giant ER Squibb:

"We could make no greater mistake than to be lulled into a sense of false security by believing that some disembodied force called the government will act like a beneficent big brother and make certain that the special interests will not predominate. If the general welfare is to be protected, it will be protected by the actions of people, not the government."

13 years ago today: More non-consensual radiation experiments disclosed

On 22 October 1994 it was reported that the US President's Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments admitted that many more radiation had been conducted by the Government and the military from 1944 to 1974 than previously suggested. These included injection of plutonium and deliberate release of large amounts of radioactivity into the environment.

The number of human experiments were said to be in the thousands. Most were conducted without consent, and some on retarded and "incorrigible" children in institutions.

A decade ago I was involved in conducting a limited low-dose isotope experiment in osteoporosis (reference below). I had read many of the original studies of skeletal metabolism that were carried out in the 1950's. Some of these were interesting. I had thought little about their origins and will discuss one particularly problematical bone radiation study in a later posting. It's about trust.

  • "Panel Says U.S. May Have Done Thousands of Human Radiation Experiments," New York Times, 22 October 1994
  • Blumsohn A, Morris B, Eastell R (1994). Stable strontium absorption as a measure of intestinal calcium absorption: comparison with the double-radiotracer calcium absorption test. Clin Sci. 1994 Sep;87(3):363-8. [Pubmed]
  • Panel Releases Report on Human Radiation (the US government view)

Tip of the iceberg

7 years ago today: Another easy case - Fujimura the archaeologist

On 22 October 2000 a renowned archaeologist Shinichi Fujimura dug some holes in Japan. He arranged some ancient stone tools in a symbolic pattern, and covered them with soil. He and his team then invited journalists to see this important discovery in progress.

Fujimura’s findings had led to the idea that the earliest human habitation of Japan was 600,000 years ago instead of a mere 30,000.

As it happens, reporters suspicious of his previous work had filmed the burial. Fujimura admitted to his fraud. Most of his earlier discoveries also proved to be forgeries.

Another nice cozy case of fraud for those want easy definitions of integrity.

BBC: Archaeologist exposed as fraud (with nice photographs)
Harvard Asia Quarterly Volume VI (3) 2002

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