Compassion, US-style

Handicapped kids, orphans as guinea pigs

Published: Sunday 15 January 2006

In a highly controversial move the us Environmental Protection Agency (epa) has proposed to allow pesticide testing on orphans and mentally handicapped children.

The proposal is in response to a mandate by the us Congress asking the epa to permanently ban chemical testing on pregnant women and children. As per the proposed rule, chemicals can be tested on children who "cannot be reasonably consulted," like mentally handicapped or orphaned newborns. Tests would be allowed with permission from the institution or guardian in charge of the child. A mentally handicapped child or infant orphan could be tested on without assent.

Ironically, it is titled 'Protections for Subjects in Human Research'. But waivers to these rules also exist. Parental consent forms are not necessary for testing on neglected or abused children. "In the new rule, epa puts industry profits ahead of children's welfare," says Organic Consumers Association (oca), a us -based non-governmental organisation.

"This violates the Nuremberg Code, an international treaty that mandates assent of test subjects as 'absolutely essential'. It states the test subject must have the 'legal capacity to give consent' and must be 'so situated as to exercise free power of choice'," oca points out. Under another clause of the proposed rule, the epa has the power to completely waive regulations on human testing, if the testing is done outside the us. The proposal is currently open for public comment.

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