Wednesday, November 17, 2004

It's just not ethical

Somewhere around my second or third year, I found out that all biological researchers at the University were supposed to attend a laboratory safety lecture. It wasn’t anything we were excited to do, but we went. Or, at least, the few of us in the room when we found out about the training went. More on this later.

So there we sat, The Doktah, Grouchy Guy, and I, trapped in a room and learning how to properly dispose of chemicals. The subject of human blood came up, and we learned where to throw out contaminated tubes, syringes, etc. Naturally, we were told that you should always wear gloves when working with another person’s blood.

The Doktah, who did experiments on blood but often used her own, raised her hand. “What if you’re working with your own blood?”

The trainer stiffened. “It’s unethical to use your own blood in experiments.” We were confused, and someone asked why. “I don’t want to get into it. It just is. It’s unethical to use your own blood.” We tried to ask more about it, but she just kept repeating that it was unethical and that she couldn’t get into it. She absolutely refused to tell us why, and we were never able to figure it out. Perhaps she though The P.I. was forcing The Doktah to withdraw pints of her own blood on a regular basis, but The Doktah only needed a drop at a time. A pinprick was all. So, unethical? Does anyone out there know why? And the trainer seemed very uncomfortable about the whole thing. Maybe someone once forced her to withdraw pints of her own blood on a regular basis.

Aside: The Doktah used my blood (she wore gloves) on occasion. Again, she only needed a drop from a fingerprick. One day, she asked me if she could have some blood, and warned me that she would need more than usual. “I’m afraid I’m going to need 10 mL this time.”

“From my finger?!?” I said. 10 mL was easily 1000 times more than a fingerprick. Instead of a tiny drop of blood, she was asking me for a test-tube full. Which is not easy to get out of a finger.

“No! I mean 10 microliters! Microliters!” she said, hastily. So, two drops instead of the usual one. Which I could deal with.

1 comment:

Leah Lar said...

Maybe she didn't mean unethical so much as it was just a bad idea. Or maybe its unethical scientifically, because there aren't any tests run on this blood specifically so you could get weird results and not know why, so then you're reporting data on an unknown blood sample which could be unethical. Like what if The Doktah has a weird blood disease and doesn't know about it? Or it could vary from day to day based on diet.

I don't know. I'm trying...