Ethical Dilemmas at Willowbrook Mental Institution Essay

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Willowbrook State School was an institution for children with mental retardation located in the Willowbrook neighborhood of Staten Island in New York City from the 1930s until 1987. Originally this school was designated to house 4,000 mentally retarded; however by 1965 it had a population of a little over 6,000. This large number of occupants named this the largest state-run institution for the mentally handicapped in the United States. (Bursztyn, 2006) After Kennedy took a tour of the institution he stated there were “questionable medical practices, and experiments” thus labeling this institution a “snake pit” and proclaimed that individuals in the overcrowded facility were "living in filth and dirt, their clothing in rags, in rooms less …show more content…
While the study was being conducted Willowbrook closed its doors to new admissions because of overcrowded conditions. However, the hepatitis program, because it occupied its own space at the institution, was able to continue to admit new patients. Thus, in some cases, parents found that they were unable to admit their child to Willowbrook unless they agreed to his or her participation in the studies. This case caused a public outcry because of the perception that parents and their children were given little choice about whether or not to participate in research.
Respect for persons and fairness were violated. The study provided an undue inducement because students were given a coveted spot in Willowbrook in a newer part of the facility if they participated in the research. Parents and their children were not truly informed about the risks of the study. Children in a mental health facility can’t fully understand the risks of a study they are participating in. The methods by which children were recruited are also questionable. Parents were unduly induced to give their consent. The public outcry over this case was largely due to the impression that parents had little choice over whether or not to participate in the research. Parents who wanted care for their children may

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