Self experimenting doctors
Altruistic or self serving?
- By: Rebecca Ghani
Last year’s Christmas BMJ published a series of research papers where the authors were experimenters and subjects. Rebecca Ghani investigates the long and sometimes bizarre tradition of self-experimenting doctors.
Self experimentation throws up problems around practicality, accuracy, reliability, and ethics. You might assume that medical professionals would resort to it only if there was no alternative: is it feasible to be both a detached observer and a (possibly suffering) clinical trial subject? And why do this when there’s an agreed medical and ethical protocol for clinical trials?
But delve a little deeper and it’s possible to find not just a handful of DIY trials but a catalogue of examples where doctors and medical professionals have not only tested medical theories on themselves, but changed the course of medical history in the process.
Self experimenters have identified elusive disease triggers, forged major advances in pain management and anaesthesia, discovered ground