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Last Updated: Monday, 20 June 2005, 12:50 GMT 13:50 UK
Breakthrough for 'guinea pig kids'
A US Federal investigation has backed the findings of a BBC documentary on the misuse of foster children in testing HIV drugs.

COMPLAINT UPHELD
Following a complaint, an investigation by the BBC's Editorial Complaints Unit has identified serious failings with this programme and ruled that some of the online material based on it was misleading.

Guinea Pig Kids, part of the This World series on BBC Two, revealed how children as young as a few months old were being enrolled in the New York trials without proper consent.

In some cases children were taken from family or guardians when they refused to administer drugs which had severe side effects.

The children were in the care of the New York social services. Most were orphans and had been born to poor black women, many of them drug users.

Regina Mousa's grandson (left) is HIV positive and in a foster home

Now he US Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Human Research Protections has ruled that Columbia University Presbyterian Medical Center in New York, which ran the tests, broke federal guidelines in the way it selected chldren and obtained permission from parents and guardians.

In a letter to the medical centre dated 23 May 2005, the government department noted: "When some or all of the subjects (eg children) are likely to be vulnerable to coercion or undue influence, additional safeguards have been included in the Health and Human Services (HHS) regulations to protect the rights and welfare of these subjects."

Findings in full

Guinea Pig Kids and the ensuing publicity prompted a congressional hearing, at which experts testified that the standards for enrolling foster children in medical experiments varied widely across the country. Some lawmakers complained that the foster kids had fewer protections than prisoners.



SEE ALSO
New York's HIV experiment
30 Nov 04 |  This World

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