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August 17, 1963

The Danger of 'Blind Experimenting' With Human Embryos: Drug use should be curtailed during pregnancy due to the risk of chemically induced malformations

JAMA. 1963;185(7):38-39. doi:10.1001/jama.1963.03060070010010

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"Each tablet given to a woman in early pregnancy is an experiment in human teratology."

To curtail such experimentation Dr. Widukind Lenz advised the International Conference that no drugs that are not essential to health should be given to a pregnant woman.

Lenz, professor of human genetics at Hamburg University, Germany, was the first person to relate the 1959-1961 outbreak of birth defects in West Germany to thalidomide.

That disaster, he said, should be a warning to bring such experiments to a halt. In view of the number of drugs that have been given to pregnant women, we have been "very fortunate" that so few of them have been harmful to the embryo.

As a result, we know very little of chemically induced malformations in man. The thalidomide experience, "due to its enormous extent, has given a consistent and clear picture of some important aspects of chemical teratogenesis," Lenz told

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