A trial for an HIV vaccine had to be stopped before the trail could be completed because the vaccine was doing the complete opposite of what it was supposed to do. A number of 1,836 were followed and 172 of them contracted the virus.  It was found to be making some men MORE LIKELY to get HIV.  Men that were uncircumcised and received the vaccine were more vulnerable to acquiring the virus after getting the vaccine even when not participating in risky behaviors.  This higher susceptibility however, lessen after 18 months.

Why is it that when researchers realized that the vaccine was not protecting anyone from getting HIV and when they had suspicions hat it was making some men more susceptible to HIV that this faulty vaccine being administered?  Did this pharmaceutical company figure that their profits would be worth more than the lives of these men that were put in danger?

This is an example of a human rights violation because Merck, the pharmaceutical company, should have been a guardian of health and stopped administering this vaccine once they had suspicions that the drug was failing men.


In the past month, two distinct court cases regarding inmates’ rights have been decided by the Supreme Court. Both cases found in favor of extending inmates’ rights on the grounds that the existing condition was a violation of the Eight Amendment, which protects all Americans from cruel and unusual punishment.

On March 27, 2012, 21 death row inmates won the federal case Beaty V. Food and Drug Administration, which will ban the use of sodium thiopental as an anesthetic given prior to lethal injections. The federal judge ruled that the drug (which is manufactured overseas) was unapproved and misbranded and that the FDA violated its own rules by allowing it to be distributed in the US without adequate testing of efficacy and safety. The inmates’ attorneys claimed that the drug may cause “anesthesia-awareness,” during which the anesthetized may experience pain, suffocation, or cardiac arrest.

Also in March of 2012, the Supreme Court ruled against reinstating a Wisconsin law which would ban state-funded hormone therapy and sex-change operations for its transgender inmates (Smith V. Fields). The court ruled that because doctors had deemed hormone therapy as medically necessary for patients with gender identity disorder, banning such therapy was a violation of the Eight Amendment.

The former is an example of a right we generally believe all people should have: the right to die a painless death. We have legal protection against cruel and unusual punishment in place to protect each and every one of us in the event that we are incarcerated and sentenced to death.

Globally, there are widely varying views on both inmates’ rights and the legality/morality of capital punishment. In the US, individual states decide whether or not they have the death penalty. Interestingly, we tend to discuss human rights universally, when it isn’t even a national concept. Read More

Buckle-up! Today, we are going to Sub-Saharan Africa!

For over 50 years, children in the Sub-Saharan area, particularly in Uganda and Sudan.  The reason behind this lack of information is because it affects a population that is often overlooked–the poor that is.  There are no efforts being made to help rid children of this disease because many people cannot afford any medical relief.  If there is no profit to be made does that mean that pharmaceutical companies should not even try to create a solution that affects so many children?

An article in the Huffington Post identifies that there is a lack of Vitamin B in community members of these Sub-Saharan regions.  Providing vitamin B supplements to children in this region ages 5-15 whom are most affected by this disease should be urged.  Even though the disease is not discussed much, does not mean that is not harmful. Children with this disease, are prone to accidents such as drowning and burning because of mental impairment.

My question to you all is: should diseases that affect the poor not be discussed and not receive a treatment?


A CBS News Video explores the limited access to pain medications of people in more than 80% of the world, who only have access to 5% of world morphine.  For people in countries such as Uganda, this means that AIDS and cancer patients, who are suffering from terrible, long-term pain, will be unable to gain access to pain medication.  Diederik Lohman, the senior researcher with Human Rights Watch, has drawn a parallel between torture and global pain, stating that it is no less a violation of human rights to deny (or to not supply) a suffering cancer patient or burn victim with pain medication, than it is to torture a person.  Furthermore, he has gone on to say that while a torture victim has the opportunity to sign a confession and cease the torture, “the patient with pain does not have that option.”

While one may be quick to assume that the reason for a lack of access to pain medication comes from unavailability or lack of resources, this is not the case.  Morphine is, in fact, very cheap and easy to acquire.  The problem is more complicated, and has arisen as a side-effect of the war on drugs.  As the market for drugs (such as heroin, a morphine derivative) has expanded tremendously, the war on drugs has led many countries to instill new and rigid regulations on controlled substances, thus leading to a reduction of the availability of the same controlled substances for medicinal purposes. 

 This is especially a problem in countries such as Uganda, where there are very few doctors who are trained in the dosing and administration of morphine.  However, currently new protocols are in the works aiming to extend the laws to allow and train nurses to administer controlled pain medication.

 Unfortunately, the inevitability of collateral damage will always render us as having to choose the lesser of the two evils.  Especially when the topic revolves around allowing access to medication, the risk of a black market and drug abuse will continue to stifle availability.

On Tuesday The Supreme Court heard opening arguments in a case that, at it’s resolution, will set a strong precedent regarding corporate liability for civil suits brought by foreign nationals for human rights violations committed abroad.

The case, Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, involves a civil suit filed by 12 Nigerian Plaintiffs who allege that Royal Dutch Petroleum, a.k.a. Shell, “aided and abetted, and were otherwise complicit in, violations of international law;” specifically that the corporation “collaborated closely with Nigeria’s then-military government as it carried out a campaign of intimidation and violence” against the Ogoni people who opposed the development of their land for oil. At this stage the suit, filed under the umbrella of the Alien Tort Claims Act of 1789, is immediately concerned with whether foreign nationals have any right to try such claims through the United States Judicial System at all.

Read More

     While I agree with Bianca in that I would also rather buy generic pharmaceutical products as opposed to drugs a college student cooked in his basement, I think that it is important to consider why there is a black market for drugs and other medical services in the first place.  Perhaps it is easier to consider organs on the black market as opposed to pharmaceuticals.  I, for one, believe that under the current regulations, a black market for organs is unavoidable and even necessary.  To quote a New York Times article, “More than 3,300 Americans died last year awaiting kidney transplants”.  That is 3,300 Americans, not 3,300 people in the world and not 3,300 people waiting for other organs (hearts, lungs, what have you).  Many of those people have been on multiple transplant lists, but have still been unable to get an organ.  If we are to look past the moral aspects of this situation, I believe that it is necessary to have a window of opportunity such as the black market if all other efforts have failed.

An article titled “Black Market Medicine: An Ethical Alternative to State Control,” states:

“Defying the law can sometimes be the only course left for the doctor faced with legislation contrary to his ethics. In so doing he is guilty of no crime other than that of non-cooperation with a morally empty institution”.

While this may be too reverent of an outlook, it does force us to think about why so many people turn to the black market for health care?  Is it the fact that the black market will exist regardless of how the system is organized, or is it the fact that, when faced with the choice of life or death, most people will go to immeasurable lengths to choose “life”?  Finally, can we ever fully shut down the black market?

This is another interesting article on surgeons’ take on the selling of human organs: