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100 Years of Insulin: Medical Success, Ethical Mess?

November 10, 2021 @ 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm EST

Dr. Andrew Helmers, MDCM, MHSc (Bioethics), MSc, Staff Physician, Department of Critical Care Medicine & Department of Bioethics, The Hospital for Sick Children
Rashad Rehman, BA, PhD Candidate, Department of Philosophy & Joint Centre for Bioethics, University of Toronto; Project-Specific Bioethics Research Volunteer, Mount Sinai Hospital

About this Seminar:
Insulin’s discovery and discoverers are indebted in part to the absence of institutional research ethics processes in the first half of the 20th Century. In 1921, Frederick Banting, Charles Best, and James Collip discovered and purified insulin in the laboratory of J.J.R. Macleod at The University of Toronto. They invoked self-experimentation, in addition to extensive animal work (without oversight), in order to bring their discovery to the bedside with a remarkable rapidity: 14-year-old Leonard Thompson received the world’s first injection of insulin in January 1922, at the Toronto General Hospital. This bench-to-bedside transition involved additional data-gathering from vulnerable patients and war veterans, again without any oversight or documentation of informed consent. Their motives were admirable, and their legacy (including the generous surrender of their patents) was generous and life-saving. Their methods would not pass muster at any contemporary research ethics board, yet their altruism and energy in pursuing a treatment for Type 1 Diabetes was – and remains – exemplary. Banting and Best’s work serves as a reminder of the virtues and values which pre-dated a formalized research ethics enterprise, values which must continue to inform modern research ethics such that patients are prioritized over patents.

Additional Details:
This event is free and is open to the general public.

The direct link to the seminar will be sent out to registered participants 2 hours before the event. The JCB Bioethics Seminars are now being live-streamed to our YouTube channel. If you don’t receive the link 2 hours before the event, please head over there and click on the live stream. Subscribe to our channel to receive notices of upcoming events.


November 10, 2021
4:00 pm - 5:00 pm EST
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Joint Centre for Bioethics
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