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January 12, 1970

Experimentation in Children

Author Affiliations

Assistant General Counsel, DHEW Washington, DC

JAMA. 1970;211(2):301. doi:10.1001/jama.1970.03170020065020

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To the Editor:—  As one who for some years has been responsible for advising on the legal basis for the use of human subjects in clinical research, I feel compelled to add a note of legal caution to the article in your Oct 6, 1969, issue by Professor William J. Curran and Henry K. Beecher, MD, on "Experimentation in Children." The research use of children, as well as of the mentally incompetent, is admittedly an area without direct judicial precedent and one of considerable uncertainty.What we do have are a very few court decisions, from which we extrapolate, that involve donations of organs or other tissue and a great deal of organizational and individual, nonjudicial opinions, including my own, of what the law is likely to be or should be. Also, we sometimes find statements of policy by institutions or professional groups that can represent, at best, practical judgments