Nephew of famous eugenicist at the helm of preemie death controversy

The nephew of a famous eugenics proponent is embroiled in controversy over the radically inhuman study that led to the deaths or permanent disability of many children born extremely premature. Alan E. Guttmacher, nephew of famous eugenicist and abortion proponent Alan F. Guttmacher, heads the National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) at the National Institutes of Health, a federal agency which is part of the Department of Health and Human Services. From 2006-2009, the NICHD conducted research which they called SUPPORT (Surfactant, Positive Airway Pressure, and Pulse Oximetry Randomized Trial). The trial essentially manipulated the oxygen levels of the premature infants to record the babies’ reactions.

The Guardian’s Sharyl Atkisson reports:

The government-backed study in question was called “SUPPORT.” It was conducted from 2006 to 2009 on 1,316 extremely premature infants at 23 academic institutions under the National Institutes of Health, which is part of the Department of Health and Human Services.

Controversy surfaced in March 2013 when the government’s own ethics body, the Office of Human Research Protections, dropped a bombshell.

The ethics office found the federal study’s consent forms violated government rules designed to protect human research subjects. According to OHRP, the consent forms “failed to describe the reasonably foreseeable risks of blindness, neurological damage and death” to babies in the study.

Alan E. Guttmacher was not the director of the NICHD at the time of the trial, but as current director he must face the brunt of the questioning and scrutiny. He brushes off any notion of wrong-doing on his agency’s part, saying:

We stand by this study as it was conducted and look for ways to do research even better, if there is a better way to do it, in the future.

Really? “If there is a better way”? This may be difficult for someone who views small humans as entities for use and discarding (as Guttmacher’s involvement with Planned Parenthood/Alan Guttmacher Institute suggests) to comprehend, but playing Russian roulette with the lives of humans inside or outside of the womb is no way to reach a research goal.

The trial’s primary controversy stems from the consent forms that were signed by mothers. The forms have come under intense scrutiny by federal ethics personnel and watchdog groups alike. The mothers of preemies who died or were permanently damaged during the study report that they were not apprised of any risks when they gave consent, and were not even aware that they were signing up for a trial at all. They allege being told that they were being enrolled in a support group for preemies, or that they were signing forms to ensure that their baby would receive care that fit his status as a preemie.

They were not apprised of risks, and only after her son endured permanent damage did one mother, Sharrissa Cook, realize that the trial was more like a game of Russian roulette than a support group:

That’s more like playing Russian roulette to me. There’s no way I would say you could give my baby whatever you want him to have as opposed to what he needs.


Editor’s note: Stay tuned to to learn more about the Alan Guttmacher Institute, and its strong ties to Planned Parenthood and Margaret Sanger.