Scientific experimentation is the source of significant discoveries that can be attributed to modern technological advancement. Ethical consideration was an important aspect to scientific work, especially when it involved potentially harmful procedures such as testing the outcome on human beings or any other animals.
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Nicholson and Carlisle are the scientists of 19th century, who are responsible for discovery of electrolysis while Ken Warwick is a modern day scientist responsible for creating cyborg that integrates human and artificial properties.
Both scientists tested the outcomes of their scientific work on themselves and sometimes on close relatives. Based on the form of self experimentation, there are no significant ethical differences between the two categories of scientific work.
Nicholson and Carlisle developed a voltaic cell using salt solution, zinc and copper as electrodes and generated a continuous stream of electric current similar to that which had been emitted by mechanical generators (Calvert, 2002). The current was discovered to cause electric shock when tested on the person.
In this case, these two researchers tested the effects of the current on their sensory receptors leading to inference that electric current causes sensory change to all receptors except olfactory cells responsible for smell. They later used the same knowledge to develop electrolytic cell that was used to split water into constituent elements: hydrogen and oxygen (Calvert, 2002).
Kevin Warwick is the professor of computer technology who has performed experimentation to test how the human body would integrate computerized information and how the information would affect response to the environment (Warwick, 2002).
In the first experiment, a silicon chip was surgically inserted above his wrist joint and was used to monitor movement and operate items without necessarily using fingers (Warwick, 2002). In cyborg2.0, a nerve tube was connected to his median nerve fiber and used to transmit nerve impulse to external objects such as an electric wheelchair.
In another procedure, a similar nerve tube was connected to his wife Elina and used to monitor how thoughts and emotions could be transmitted form one person to another through electronic means, such as internet (Warwick, 2002).
In both experiments, results are tested on self-exposing of the researcher to possible risks, which could include death. Informed consent without coercion is a major ethical consideration for any science based on medicine experiment (Gorski, 2011). The volunteers have the right to accurate information of the risk they are taking and how it is going to be managed and fill consent forms.
In this case, the research has access to optimal information on their experiment projects, hence their consent is based on rational evaluation of the possible risks. False or deluded information is unethical and there is no justification even if the outcomes are thought to be ‘harmless’ (Gorski, 2011).
When Nicholson and Carlisle agreed to test the electric current on their senses, they were already aware of the shock effect and that it could potentially damage effectiveness of the organs thereafter (Calvert, 2002).
In a similar way, Ken Warwick is an informed academic well-aware of the possibility of the body rejecting to recognize foreign objects, such as the tube (Warwick, 2002). He had taken rational thinking into the possibility of the brain failure to integrate sensory data from unfamiliar sensory receptor.
Ethics requires that the decision is based on rational reasons and leads to reasonable results, and the volunteer should have the competence to make that decision (Gorski, 2011). Disclosure of information and comprehension of the information are necessary alternatives.
Participation should be voluntary and not controlled on induced circumstances. It is unethical to target vulnerable group, such as persons with disabilities, prisoners or minority groups, based on racial consideration (Gorski, 2011).
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Utilitarian ethical theories support the fact that there is only one principle in ethics, which is the matter of utility. The outcome should produce optimal balance for value and disvalue for all people affected. Nicholson and Carlisle’s work has led to discoveries that are currently developed to generate electric energy under minimal pressure, such as the case of dry cells and acid accumulators (Calvert, 2002).
This energy is clean and does not lead to air pollution as indicated by the absence of effected on the olfactory cells. There is increased awareness about the green migration and electric energy is an element to this phenomenon. Though the researchers had taken a risk on self-experimentation, the outcome resulted in useful information in electrochemistry, therefore, making their practice ethical (Gorski, 2011).
On the other side, Warwick’s self-experimentations may attract debate on the ethical value since they involve greater risk of introducing foreign nonliving objects into the body through surgical operation (Warwick, 2002).
According to this ethical theory, the end justifies the means and promotes the greatest good for the majority involved (Gorski, 2011). For anything to be ethical, it should lead to the most useful outcomes. The fact that Warwick’s experiment was successful indicated that it was possible to transmit neural information from one part of the body to external objects (Warwick, 2002).
This can be developed to improve mobility for people with disabilities, especially in the cases of amputation, but only for those who have residual sensation on other parts of the body.
The external nerve may be incorporated in the parenthesis for close to normal operation. The risk involved in cyborg2.0 experiment is huge, but the outcome has potential of benefiting majority, therefore, it has good ethical boundaries (Gorski, 2011).
In conclusion, it is fair to state that there are no significant ethical differences in the two sets of self-experiments. Informed consent and utilitarian ethical consideration were implemented. Technical differences exist since there procedures have various location with Nicholson and his partner limiting their test to external organs while Warwick has involved test that monitors internal organs, especially the nervous system.
Calvert, J. B (2002) Electrochemistry. Web.
Gorski, D. (2011) Ethics in Human Experimentation in Science- based Medicine. Science- Based Medicine. Web.
Warwick, K. (2002) The Next True Step Towards True Cyborgs? The University of Reading. Web.