History of Human Experimentation

Experiments have been conducted on humans for a long time, and it was not uncommon in the past to conduct unethical experiments on humans, which caused them severe psychological and physical harm. Experiments on humans were conducted in the field of psychology and medicine. The history of human experimentation highlights the atrocities that fell upon humans who were a part of experiments conducted by clinical and medical professionals.

In the past, whenever experiments were conducted on humans, it was synonymous with pain and suffering and had little to do with their welfare and well-being. The main aim was to reach the study's results and prove the hypothesis, even if it meant causing harm to a bunch of individuals, which is morally and ethically wrong as we look back.

History of Human Experimentation

Experimentation on condemned men is considered a common practice in ancient Alexandria but slowly evaded from Rome and during the Middle periods. Sporadic cases were proved in the Renaissance and subsequently involved trials before and incontinently after prosecution. The arrival of the guillotine raised the question of possible continuity of knowledge after the prosecution, and that prodded important electrophysiological study of lately guillotined heads and bodies. In 19th- century Europe, interest concentrated on cardiac function incontinently after beheading.

In the early 20th century, numerous condemned men in the Philippines were used by American croakers for their exploration of pests and beriberi. Briefly bandied is the applicability of the practice of mortal immolation in proud Greece and Mayan Yucatan, as well as trials on enslaved Black people in America. The Nazi medical crimes of World War II encompass a completely different morality and are not similar to the matter at hand. Nevertheless, they have still stirred feelings to discredit the general conception of trial associated with the capital discipline. Indeed within the frame of the system of justice, the humanitarian solicitations of numerous now sagging on death row are being ignored.

In the past, it was common for experiments to be conducted on humans unethically while testing any new drug, and medical practitioners and psychology researchers carried out experimental studies. On the other hand, the present-day experiments conducted on humans consider the well-being of the subjects but need to be more mindful of special categories of subjects.

During the 1930s and 1940s, ethics in medical trials was central to the Nuremberg trials and related prosecutions of croakers and public health authorities in Germany. Those involved in heinous crimes attempted to justify their actions by claiming that there were no unambiguous norms governing the medical exploration of mortal persons in Germany at the time and that exploration methods in Germany were no different from those in confederated nations.

In this context, the Nuremberg law of 1947 is often recognized as the first legislation to establish ethical guidelines for fatal trials based on informed consent. However, new research suggests ethical concerns about informed consent in guidelines for lethal experiments were recognized as early as the eighteenth century. These principles shed insight on the still-controversial question of when the concepts of autonomy, informed consent, and remedial and non-therapeutic exploration originally appeared. This question has resurfaced in recent attempts to establish accountability and blame for human rights violations in numerous tribunals held in several countries following the alternative world war.

Medical Experiments in History

In the past, medical practitioners chose vulnerable sections of society, like prisoners, to conduct their experiments. The participants were part of the study by force and coercion, and their consent was not considered. In addition, there were times when the participants were deceived with the promise of good health to coax them to participate in the study or by not disclosing the risks involved. Following are some of the experiments conducted in the past that violated human dignity.

The Transplant of Testicles

A researcher conducted a vasectomy on prisoners with the promise of improving their vigor, which was morally wrong. He believed that injecting the testicles of young boys into older men would help restore their vigor. During his study, he ran out of the testicles of the younger boy and replaced them with that of animals like deer and goats and injected them into the abdomen of the prisoners. The prisoners were unaware of that and had severe health complications.

The Injecting of Cancerous Cells

One of the most shocking experiments conducted in the past was on the reaction of the immune system of individuals to cancer cells. The researcher initially conducted the study on cancer patients with weak immune systems. Later, to obtain more accurate results, he moved to a healthier population and injected cancerous cells in prisoners without them being aware. Though he later arranged medical care for them, the study violated the well-being and rights of the participants at so many levels.

The "Stuttering" Study

A researcher who was keen on finding out if the external environment impacted the stuttering of individuals reached out to children at an orphanage. She reinforced half of the children while the other half were ridiculed for their speech, which worsened their stuttering. In order to determine whether her hypothesis was true, the researcher ended up causing harm to young children.

The Dermatological Testing

A dermatologist paid a minuscule amount to prisoners in exchange for becoming a part of his study. The prisoners were informed about the risks involved in the study. They were exposed to harmful chemicals from deodorants and cosmetics and exposed to sunlight to see their impacts on their bodies and whether their cream was useful or not. This left the prisoners with long-term side effects and burnt/inflamed skin.

These are a few past experiments that violated human rights and dignity, causing them harm. The little Albert experiment by JB Watson is another example that left a young boy terrified of any white object. This shows that the individuals who were made a part of the study without their consent were either coerced or deceived.


Formal authorities and institutions have laid out policies, drawing upon the history of experiments conducted on humans, keeping in view their harmful effects and violating basic human rights. Historical shreds of evidence show that the individuals who were made a part of the study without their consent were either coerced or deceived. Presently, ethical guidelines are laid out to ensure the welfare of the participants.

Updated on: 10-Feb-2023


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