Philip R. Cohen, MD
Dr. Cohen is from the University of Houston Health Center, Texas; the Department of Dermatology, University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston; and the Department of Dermatology, University of Texas Medical School, Houston.
Dr. Cohen reports no conflicts of interest in relation to this post.
Medical experimentation occurs daily and is essential to the development of new therapies. Medical experimentation also includes self-experimentation. Self-experimentation in dermatology is well-documented; indeed many investigators have subsequently published their own observations.
I consider self-reporting, which includes not only investigators publishing the results of experimentation of which they are the subject but also clinicians reporting observations of conditions of which they (or their family members) are the patient, to be a variant of self-experimentation and therefore a forme fruste of medical experimentation (Expert Rev Dermatol. 2012;7:9-12).
What’s the issue?
Should dermatologists advocate or avoid self-experimentation? The current status of many institutional regulatory boards is extraordinarily restrictive; therefore, it is perhaps not unreasonable for the informed physician to personally consent to be the patient for a new and/or innovative treatment of which they are the investigator. However, just because self-experimentation has been considered as resourceful in the past does not necessarily mean that it should continue to occur. And if self-reporting is a forme fruste of medical experimentation, should this activity be encouraged? Would you publish medical observations involving yourself or your family? Would you perform nonestablished therapeutic interventions on yourself or your family members? Where do you draw the line?