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Consent and the Construction of the Volunteer: Institutional Settings of Experimental Research on Human Beings in Britain during the Cold War

Bolton, Talitha (2008) Consent and the Construction of the Volunteer: Institutional Settings of Experimental Research on Human Beings in Britain during the Cold War. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.86408) (KAR id:86408)

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Official URL
https://doi.org/10.22024/UniKent/01.02.86408

Abstract

This study challenges the primacy of consent in the history of human experimentation and argues that privileging the cultural frameworks adds nuance to our understanding of the construction of the volunteer in the period 1945 to 1970. Historians and bio-ethicists have argued that medical ethics codes have marked out the parameters of using people as subjects in medical scientific research and that the consent of the subjects was fundamental to their status as volunteers. However, the temporality of the creation of medical ethics codes means that they need to be understood within their historical context. That medical ethics codes arose from a specific historical context rather than a concerted and conscious determination to safeguard the well-being of subjects needs to be acknowledged. The British context of human experimentation is under-researched and there has been even less focus on the cultural frameworks within which experiments took place. This study demonstrates, through a close analysis of the Medical Research Council's Common Cold Research Unit (CCRU) and the government's military research facility, the Chemical Defence Experimental Establishment, Porton Down (Porton), that the `volunteer' in human experiments was a subjective entity whose identity was specific to the institution which recruited and made use of the subject. By examining representations of volunteers in the British press, the rhetoric of the government's collectivist agenda becomes evident and this fed into the institutional construction of the volunteer at the CCRU. In contrast, discussions between Porton scientists, staff members, and government officials demonstrate that the use of military personnel in secret chemical warfare experiments was far more complex. Conflicting interests of the military, the government and the scientific imperative affected how the military volunteer was perceived.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Sleigh, Charlotte
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.86408
Additional information: This thesis has been digitised by EThOS, the British Library digitisation service, for purposes of preservation and dissemination. It was uploaded to KAR on 09 February 2021 in order to hold its content and record within University of Kent systems. It is available Open Access using a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/) licence so that the thesis and its author, can benefit from opportunities for increased readership and citation. This was done in line with University of Kent policies (https://www.kent.ac.uk/is/strategy/docs/Kent%20Open%20Access%20policy.pdf). If you feel that your rights are compromised by open access to this thesis, or if you would like more information about its availability, please contact us at ResearchSupport@kent.ac.uk and we will seriously consider your claim under the terms of our Take-Down Policy (https://www.kent.ac.uk/is/regulations/library/kar-take-down-policy.html).
Subjects: D History General and Old World
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of History
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 29 Oct 2019 16:58 UTC
Last Modified: 28 Jan 2022 16:03 UTC
Resource URI: https://kar.kent.ac.uk/id/eprint/86408 (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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