Sham neurosurgery in patients with Parkinson's disease: is it morally acceptable?

Journal of Medical Ethics 27 (3):151-156 (2001)
Abstract
For a few decades, patients with Parkinson's disease have been treated with intracerebral transplantations of fetal mesencephalic tissue. The results of open trials have been variable. Double blind, placebo-controlled studies have recently been started in order to further investigate the efficacy of this new medical technique. In this paper we challenge the need for sham surgery in neurotransplantation research on PD patients. Considerations regarding the research subjects' informed consent, therapeutic misconception, the integrity of the human body, and the assessment of risks and benefits argue against sham surgery for patients with PD. Moreover, there is an alternative, less harmful mode of research that can provide the same or comparable scientific evidence. A plea is made for intrapatient research based on quantitative measurements of the patient's pre- and post-operative condition combined with similar research on a reference group of patients who have received the standard treatment
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