Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Captain America and Human Experimentations

There have been two recent science fiction movies that involves questionable research ethics. The first is Captain America: The First Avenger where a 'supersoldier' serum and 'vita radiation' was used to transform a skinny Steve Rogers to a hunky Captain America. The second was the reimagined Rise of the Planet of the Apes where gene therapy was used to enhance the intelligence of chimpanzees.

Each of these movies raised at least three concerns about scientific research which I will highlight briefly.

In the movie Captain America, serious considerations have to be given to the moral and theological implications of human experimentation.

Firstly, the use of human enhancement technology to make human beings into weapons. It may be argued that human beings have always being trying to better themselves. From education of the mind and physical exercises for the body, humans has always tested the limitations of their God-given bodies. Recently advances include prosthetic hip replacements which allows the elderly to walk and body sculpturing to develop the present ideal of the perfect proportioned human body by exercises, diet, supplements,drugs, surgery and hormones. Is it morally and ethically admissible to create a 'supersolder' serum in order to create a human weapon?   No doubt in most military in the word, most soldiers are enhanced by technology and stimulants to make them more effective killers. However these technologies can be removed and stimulants wear off. But a permanently altered 'supersoldier' remains altered at the end of the mission. Will that create a social problem later (see Soldier, Universal Soldier series of movies).

Secondly, is there informed consent when human experimentation was performed on Rogers? Or was it manipulation using Rogers' wishful thinking to trick him into 'volunteering' for the serum. Rogers seems blissful unaware what in store for him when he innocently asked 'why is it so big' when he climbed into the transformation chamber. I wonder how many of the people involved in clinical human trials worldwide are aware of what they are in for. In other words, do they give really informed consent? Or are they manipulated into these trials by whatever these research organisations offer them? Rogers wanted to go to the warzone. What incentives was given to volunteers of clinical trials? Why is most clinical trails conducted in the poorer and least developed countries?

Thirdly, Dr Abraham Esrkine who perfected the 'supersoldier' serum was apparently from Nazi Germany. He has tried and failed with Johann Schidmt (a.k.a. Red Skull). While it was not clarified, it was implied that Esrkine would have  experimented on human prisoners in Germany before coming to America. Why would a man with obviously a Jewish name should be a Nazi scientist involved with human experimentation is not explained. A question that arises is that is it morally wrong to use scientific data derived from coerced human experimentation? For example in the Nazi human experiments during the Second World War. Is it morally right to use such data or not? The Nuremberg Trials seem to think that it is not morally right to use these data. It then begs another question. Is it morally justifiable to experiment on death row prisoners? (see Terminator: Salvation. My movie review here).

Interesting that Hollywood is asking these moral and ethical questions which many of us are blissfully unaware


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Anonymous Anonymous said...

i somewhat agree that hollywood has been exploitative in recent years. mythbusters should debunk myths on science.

4:08 PM  

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