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September 8, 1975

The Ethics of Fetal Research

Author Affiliations

Southern Illinois University School of Medicine Springfield

JAMA. 1975;233(10):1112. doi:10.1001/jama.1975.03260100082031

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How are policy decisions about medical ethics in research made in a democratic society? Paul Ramsey, of Princeton University, uses the debate over fetal research to investigate the question. The book is one of Yale's Fastback Series, "designed to bring subjects of keen current interest to readers as quickly as possible." Ramsey sketches the history of the debates over fetal research, reveals how some governmental decisions have been made in camera, examines several guidelines that have been used for policy decision-making both in Britain and in the United States, questions how the new National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects will operate, and proposes several basic ethical principles for medical research.

Ramsey shows that it is not clear how we make policy decisions about ethics in research. In fact, he poses the irony that some of the best guidelines have come out of closed-door sessions. But he notes, whether