Experiments on humans

Daniel Cornelius Danielssen and Carl Wilhelm Boeck 

Armauer Hansen was not the first in Bergen to experiment on humans in hopes of better understanding leprosy His predecessor mentor boss and father in law Chief Physician Danielsen on the left along with the physician and member of parliament Carl Wilhelm Boeck on the right had attempted to prove that leprosy was not contagious by injecting fluid from leprosy patients into healthy individuals However while Armauer Hansen performed these experiments on an uninformed and non consenting patient Danielsen and Boeck used themselves as test subjects Neither of them developed leprosy as a result Photos Riksarkivet and Oslo Museum

Albert Neisser  

Albert Neisser the German physician who visited Hansen just before the experiment was also no stranger to experiments on humans without informed consent In 1898 he conducted experiments on unsuspecting patients where they received injections of blood serum from syphilis patients Photo Unknown


There are many examples in medical history of researchers choosing to experiment on themselves instead of patients.

The French physician Jean Louis Marc Alibert injected himself with cancer cells in 1808 Lithograph Villain
The American physician Jesse Lazear exposed himself to yellow fever in 1900 in order to conduct better research on the disease and he died from the illness Photo National Library of Medicine
The German surgeon and Nobel Prize winner Werner Forssmann performed the first cardiac catheterization on himself in 1929 a procedure that involved inserting the catheter into the blood vessels of his arm and allowing pressure to guide it to the heart He convinced a head nurse to assist him in the unauthorized operation by promising that she would be the subject instead of him Using local anesthesia to deceive her he proceeded to perform the operation on himself instead Photo Unknown
The American John Stapp was himself the most frequent volunteer participant in his numerous experiments on deceleration and collisions for the United States Air Force In the 1940s and 1950s he broke limbs and ribs lost teeth and suffered eye injuries in various tests that exposed him to forces of up to 46g Photo Hearst Newsreel

Society has established clearer ethical guidelines on how medical experiments should be conducted, but self-experimentation still occurs in cases where researchers feel it is important to obtain results quickly. Throughout 2020, several researchers at different institutions tested experimental COVID-19 vaccines and treatments on themselves. This took place in countries such as China, the United States, Germany, and Russia.