The rise and fall of the fetoplacental empire: Reproductive research in post-war Sweden

Project leader: Solveig Jülich

This subproject explores the uses of human fetuses in the research and development of new contraceptives and methods for termination of pregnancy, and the conflicting meanings and effects that fetal research gave rise to. It focuses on the prehistory, planning and funding of the WHO Research and Training Centre on Human Reproduction that was launched at Karolinska Institutet around 1970. A central issue is the role of the media in making fetal research public, how the so-called perfusion studies of aborted fetuses were framed as controversial, and the consequences for developing national and international ethical guidelines, ethical committees and legislation.

Publications and presentations:

• With Jesse Olszynko-Gryn, Eira Bjørvik, Merle Weßel and Cyrille Jean,"A historical argument for regulatory failure in the case of Primodos and other ‘hormone pregnancy tests’", Reproductive Biomedicine & Society Online, forthcoming 2018.

• “Fosterexperimentens produktiva hemlighet: Medicinsk forskning och vita lögner i 1960- och 1970-talets Sverige.” Lychnos: Årsbok för idé- och lärdomshistoria, forthcoming 2018 (Title in transl.: ”The productive secrecy of fetal experimentation: Medical research and white lies in 1960s and 1970s Sweden”.)

• “Medicine at the borders of life: Human fetal research in Sweden, c. 1960–1971”, paper presentation, History of Science and Technology Days, Linköping University, Norrköping, September 20–22, 2017.

• “Medicine at the borders of life: Human fetal research in Sweden, c. 1960–1971”, paper presentation, European Association for the History of Medicine and Health, Universitas Medicinae Et Pharmaciae Carolus Davila, Bucharest, August 30- September 2, 2017.

• “Informed consent? Reproductive research and research ethics in Sweden, ca 1950–1970“ (title in transl.), paper presentation, Swedish Historians’ Meeting (Svenska historikermötet), Mittuniversitetet, Sundsvall, May 10–12, 2017.

• “The rise and fall of the fetoplacental empire: Human fetal research in Sweden, ca 1960–1970”, paper presentation, American Association for the History of Medicine, Nashville, Tennessee, May 4–7, 2017.

• “Primodos and Duogynon in Sweden”, paper presentation, The contested history of hormone pregnancy tests, Buckingham House Lecture Theatre, Cambridge, January 27, 2017.

• “The rise and fall of the fetoplacental empire: Human fetal research in Sweden, ca. 1950–1970”, paper presentation at the international workshop Abortion in the Nordic countries: New historical perspectives, approaches and issues, Uppsala University, October 27–28, 2015.