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An example of unethical research is the case of 27

An example of unethical research is the case of 27 year old Emma Eckstein. This case involved two doctors, the first being Wilhelm Fliess, an ear, nose, and throat doctor and Sigmund Freud (Launer, 2015). Emma was reportedly seeking help for irregular/painful periods, difficulty walking along with sexual complications (Launer, 2015). She was under the care of these doctors for years. Freud consistently told Emma that she was being treated for hysteria and excessive masturbation, which during that time was considered signs of mental health illness. Fliess preformed many unnecessary surgeries on Emma and was negligent during with the care he provided. In 1895 Fliess preformed the removal of one of her turbinate bones, with only cocaine and local anesthetic before the procedure. Emma suffered from horrific post-op complications. She began to experience hemorrhages and foul discharge from the surgical site (Launer, 2015). She needed to see several surgeons to locate the complication. In an attempt to locate the complication a half of meter of gauze was pulled from Emma’s nose (that was left in during surgery) and she experienced a life-threating episode of hemorrhaging (Launer, 2015). Gradually she recovered with re-packing each time she bled. Fliess would send advise to the Viennese surgeons, which they would bluntly ignore (Launer, 2015). After Emma recovered, she was being treated psychologically by Freud for about 3 years. His intentions with her were unclear. Emma continued to have abnormal periods which eventually led to a hysterectomy (Launer, 2015). Some argue that Freud and Fliess behavior was acceptable for that time period but letters from surgeons involved with her recoveries made it clear that what was happening was unethical and unnecessarily dangerous (Launer, 2015). Although Fliess’ letters were published by his daughter, coincidently there was no mention of Emma Eckstein. It wasn’t until 1985 (90+ years after the horrendous study) that the letter were produced in full context. It came to light that Freud apparently knew but concealed the fact that Emma Eckstein (as well as many other female patients) were most likely victims of incest (Launer, 2015). Once recovered, Emma became withdrawn, had a deformed face, spent her remaining years inside her house, and died in 1924 of a stroke at the age of 59 (Launer, 2015). Reference Launer, J. (2015). The Case of Emma Eckstein. British Medical Journal, 92, 1083. http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/postgradmedj-2015-133867

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