Two Human Genetic Research Papers Retracted Over Unethical Conduct

The participants were forced to give blood samples without ever being given an explanation as to why.
Loukia Papadopoulos

Back in 2019, disturbing reports surfaced that China was running a genetic experiment on its persecuted Muslim Uighur population placed in detention camps. It was stated by The New York Times that the country's researchers were trying to digitally reconstruct the minorities' faces based on their genetic code.

Now, The New York Times has reported that two scientific research papers have been retracted based on the fact that their subjects, who are part of the Muslim Uighur population, were not fully aware of what was going on and had therefore not fully consented to participate in the studies.

Human Genetics had already retracted a study on August 30 and The International Journal of Legal Medicine retracted a study this past Tuesday (Sept. 7).

"The Editors-in-Chief have retracted this article. Since publication, concerns were raised about the ethics and consent procedures for this study. We requested supporting documentation from the authors, including the application form submitted to the ethics committee and evidence of ethics approval," wrote the editors of The International Journal of Legal Medicine in their retraction note.

They further added that the documents supplied by the authors in response to their questioning contained insufficient data for them to remain confident that their editorial policy protocols were met or that the studies were in line with international ethical standards.

The studies were focused on determining a person's physical features based on genetic code and several members of the Uighur community told The New York Times that they were essentially forced to give blood samples without ever being given an explanation as to why or where their blood would be used.

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This is mainly because there was police involvement in the study in what has been a disturbing rising trend of Chinese researchers listing members of Chinese law enforcement or public security officials as co-authors.

The retractions are a good first step to ensuring this practice does not continue. However, The New York Times reported that there were likely hundreds of other published papers of studies conducted in the same fashion. 

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