Fosterexperimentens produktiva hemlighet

Medicinsk forskning och vita lögner i 1960- och 1970-talets Sverige


  • Solveig Jülich Uppsala universitet


foetal research, circulation of knowledge, public knowledge, secrecy, Sweden, second part of twentieth century


In recent years, secrecy and openness in science and related questions about the selective flow of knowledge and the production of ignorance has emerged as an important topic in historical and social studies of science. This paper deals with the circulation of information and knowledge about medical research on aborted human foetuses in Sweden, primarily during the 1960s and the 1970s. The aim is to investigate how individual and institutional actors developed and made use of strategies for “selective openness” about foetal experimentation, and the implications for the control of in- formation and public debate. Drawing on media coverage, official documents, letters and interviews the analysis shows that governmental authorities and medical experts tried to influence which knowledge became available to whom. Yet, they still had to interact with and respond to public criticism. A central argument is that secrecy is a productive phenomenon that generates various sorts of social effects. By relating to the experiments as a secret worthy of protection, and helped by some media, the medical researchers developed a “moral economy”. Another aspect is the amount of conflicting information and knowledge claims about “life”, “death” and “viability” that were produced in the wake of public protests and negative attention around the research. The secret, it turns out, had a multifaceted character.