Short article here. So this will be short too.
“This new analysis suggests that we may have misunderstood the ethical as well as the theoretical issues raised by Milgram’s studies. We need to ask whether it is right to protect participants’ own wellbeing by leading them to think that harming the wellbeing of others can be justified as long as it is in a good cause.”
There seems to be something missing here. What was unethical wasn’t ‘causing someone harm’, because it is not what actually happened in the experiment. It was debriefed that they hadn’t harmed someone. So Milgram didn’t excuse the behaviour in the experiment by justifying it being for a good cause, however, he justified the deception by saying it was for the greater good. And it worked (according to his book and to the authors of the article). The ethical discrepancy rather is; is it ethically sound to temporarily cause participants distress? Even if debriefing removes this distress? Is it ok if the means justify the ends…
My own contention about Milgram’s study is that, while it seems his means were worth the end, the thing is that prior to running the experiment we could not know if it was going to gain us anything. Even opinion stated that nothing exciting would come from it (by researchers’ and students’ best estimates), finding out that that wasn’t case, could be argued to justify the means. But only in retrospect. A “luxury” we most definitely don’t have today.
I have however not read the paper that the article is based off of. So perhaps I am misunderstanding the misunderstood Milgram misinterpretation.