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Healthy woman dies in research experiment

BMJ 2001; 322 doi: (Published 30 June 2001) Cite this as: BMJ 2001;322:1565
  1. Deborah Josefson
  1. San Francisco

    A 24 year old previously healthy woman has died as a result of participating in a research project as an experimental subject.

    Her death raises serious questions about the safety and ethics of human experimentation. The woman, Ellen Roche, worked as a laboratory technician at the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center's Asthma and Allergy Center in Baltimore, Maryland.

    She volunteered as a research subject in a baseline physiological test, which induced asthmatic reactions in people without asthma to determine how bronchiolar reflexes differ between the two populations. Specifically, the study was designed to test a controversial theory of asthma, which holds that people with asthma and those without both react similarly to inhaled irritants-experiencing bronchiolar vasoconstriction-but that people without asthma are able to overcome this reaction through deep inspiration.

    The researchers sought to elucidate the neural mechanisms underlying these reactions. The study was directed by Dr Alkis Togias, an associate professor and clinical immunologist at the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions.

    It was …

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