In a recent article, The Times looks back at physicians who have experimented on themselves. The headline? "Doctors who had a taste of their own medicine." There's a long history of physicians volunteering for their own trials. For example, some historians believe that famed 18th-century surgeon John Hunter purposely gave himself gonorrhoea. And in the 19th century, Horace Wells brought laughing gas out of traveling fairs and into his dental practice after first huffing some himself while one of his pals yanked a tooth. From the article:
Probably the most spectacular example is Barry Marshall, the Australian gastroenterologist who proved his theory that most stomach ulcers are caused by the common bacteria Helicobacter pylori by drinking a mixture containing the bug in 1982.
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The familiar symptoms of gastritis appeared within days. Professor Marshall and his colleague, Robin Warren, shared the Nobel Prize for Medicine last year in recognition of their discovery, which transformed a chronic condition, previously thought to be caused by stress and treated with surgery or life-long medication, into an easily treatable complaint that can be eradicated with a short course of antibiotics.
Recent self-experimenters have included Pradeep Seth, an Indian microbiologist who injected himself in 2003 with a potential vaccine he had developed for HIV. While it had been tested on animals, the vaccine had not been cleared for human trials. Although his action, which had no adverse effects, was condemned by colleagues, Seth has no regrets. “There is always a place for self-experiment in science,” he says.
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