“No doctor, however great his capacity or original his ideas, has the right to choose martyrs for science or for the general good.” Human Guinea Pigs: Experimentation on Man.Whistle-blowers tend not to be very popular. Maurice Pappworth's whistle was in the form of Human Guinea Pigs, the controversial book published in 1967 which examined unethical medical experimentation on humans and identified the researchers and institutions responsible. The ground-breaking text took the medical establishment by storm and provoked questions in Parliament.
Brilliant, Jewish, already an outsider, Pappworth was recognised as the best medical teacher in the country. But convinced that the reason for these experiments being carried out was purely to advance the careers of ambitious practitioners, Pappworth had to speak up.
In the wake of his expose, stricter codes of practice for human experimentation were put into place and the establishment of the research ethics committees was formed, which remains in place today.
Maurice Pappworth's daughter, the late Joanna Seldon, re-assesses the importance of Human Guinea Pigs in her book Whistle-blower: The Life of Maurice Pappworth. She considers her father's text a major milestone in the development of current medical research ethics and demands a re-evaluation of the pioneering medical ethicist who compromised his own career in order to ensure the protection of the patient.