More on Human Experimentation

from
http://www.mit.edu/~dmaze/human_experimentation.html
Atomic Energy Commission Radiation Experiments
In December, 1993, Secretary of Energy Hazel O’Leary made a disturbing announcement: since the 1940’s, the U. S. Atomic Energy Commission had been sponsoring a series of tests on the effects of radiation on the human body. American citizens who had checked into hospitals for a variety of ailments had been secretly injected with varying amounts of plutonium and other radioactive materials without their knowledge. Most patients thought it was “just another injection,” but the secret studies left enough radioactive material in the patients’ bodies to readily induce cancer.
Unlike the Tuskegee study, the researchers here were careful to follow up on their patients, and in many cases were able to determine where the plutonium had spread to after the patients’ death several years later. However, its methods are arguably more ethically questionable than those used in the Tuskegee study. In the AEC tests, the patients’ trust in their doctors and hospitals had essentially been betrayed. While the patients did receive the treatment they needed for their initial ailment, they were being given something whose effects were wholly unknown but was expected to cause harm.
Other experiments were conducted with other agencies. “Human Experiment 133” tested the effects upon the pilot and crew of an aircraft flying through a radiation cloud for 25-40 minutes. The Department of Defense ran tests on people living downwind of atomic tests. Prisoners in Washington and Oregon were exposed to radiation with only minimal consent. The true purposes of these tests were kept hidden from the public and the test subjects for almost 50 years.
Related Sites
http://tis-nt.eh.doe.gov/ohre/roadmap/achre/: The fundamental government document about this radiation testing is the Final Report of the Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments (the ACHRE Report). The Department of Energy set up this site for ACHRE. It includes a description of what ACHRE is and why it was established along with the entire ACHRE Report. This site also has a great deal of background material on the subject of radiation in general, along with a look at the history of radiation research since World War II. AHCRE also looks directly at the ethical challenges presented by radiation work, recounting the decisions of the researchers rather than coming to any conclusions on its own.
This site is well-organized and has a huge amount of information. The main DoE Human Radiation Experiments page contains links to most of this information, including a listing of all of the radiation experiments, oral histories of some of the participants, and a listing of declassified DoE documents about the radiation experiments.
http://www.brown.edu/Courses/Bio_Community_Health168C/achrecri.html: In Ethical Aerobics: ACHRE’s Flight From Responsibility, four doctors argue that, while the ACHRE Report was fairly complete, the rights of the experimental subjects were largely ignored. Early on in the paper, they point out that neither patients nor patient representatives were on ACHRE. They then examine the remainder of the Report, ultimately concluding that AHCRE’s presentation of the radiation testing was designed to absolve the U. S. government of responsibility for the experiments as much as possible.
http://www.brown.edu/Courses/Bio_Community_Health168C/consent.html: Michael Gipstein looks at the idea of informed consent in the ACHRE Report in his paper, The Historical Story of Informed Consent for Subjects of Radiation Experiments. He explores many specific examples of human experiments performed under AEC sanction, and is quick to point out the ethical lapses in each case.
http://www.yvwiiusdinvnohii.net/~nlthomas/political/sudradat.htm: Nancy Thomas maintains The People’s Paths, a site dedicated to Native American issues. She includes this article about a lawsuit against the U. S. government on behalf of Native Americans living near the Hanford, Washington nuclear reactor. The suit claims that residents of this area were systematically exposed to ionizing radiation and later tested without their knowledge.
http://www.webcom.com/~pinknoiz/coldwar/: This page has a couple of useful documents about radiation testing. An excerpt from the Intermediate Report of ACHRE details radiation experiments conducted by the CIA. Dr. David Egilman’s testimony about experiments conducted by the Department of Energy suggests that, just as in the Tuskegee experiment, treatment for radiation sickness was intentionally withheld from experimental subjects. Other documents here include a press release from the American Institute of Physics and some information on the Gulf War.
http://www.doe.gov/html/secretry/inside.html: Secretary of Energy Hazel O’Leary testified before the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs in January, 1994. This excerpt from her testimony shows O’Leary doing her best to reassure Congress that, despite 40 years of announced experiments, the Department of Energy is doing its best to act ethically. O’Leary describes the drive to declassify documents about human radiation testing, and goes on to detail current testing, noting that “in no case is there any exposure of living human subjects to radioactive or chemical agents.” At the end of this excerpt, O’Leary announces the creation of ACHRE, a committee with a focus on “ethical and scientific standards.”
Other Links
http://www.breakpoint.org/scripts/70114.htm: This is a transcript from the radio show BreakPoint, described by its web page as “Your Daily Guide to Developing a Christian Worldview in a Post-Christian Culture”. Chuck Colson, the show’s narrator, argues on 14 January 1997 that new FDA rules are essentially a step back to Nazi experimentation. New rules allow a doctor to try an experimental treatment on an unconscious patient without his or her consent. BreakPoint states that the new rule is the FDA “caving in” to researchers’ complaints that it was too difficult to find patients willing to submit to experimental treatments and that it took too long to get an unconscious patient’s family’s approval to try a new treatment. Although its conclusions are somewhat extreme, BreakPoint’s argument against the new rules does stand on solid moral and religious ground.
Conclusions
During the 50 years since World War II, the U. S. government consistently ignored the ethical standards it set at the Nuremberg Trials for human experimentation to try to press through its perceived testing needs without alarming the American public. Whatever the gains, the ethical lapses far outshadowed the possible benefits from the Tuskegee syphilis study and the various Atomic Energy Commission radiation experiments. While recent laws try to better preserve the concepts of informed consent and minimized risk, the threat of being experimented on against one’s will still remains in the American system.

Stay tuned for some extracts from the ACHRE Final Report.

3 Responses to “More on Human Experimentation”

  1. US Atomic Energy Commission’s secret radiation tests on humans « Antinuclear Says:

    […] More on Human Experimentation « Paul Langley’s Nuclear History Blog […]

  2. Secret radiation experiments on human patients in USA « nuclear-news Says:

    […] Secret radiation experiments on human patients in USA More on Human Experimentation Paul Langley’s Nuclear History Blog, 28 Dec 10, Atomic Energy Commission Radiation Experiments. In December, 1993, Secretary of Energy Hazel O’Leary made a disturbing announcement: since the 1940′s, the U. S. Atomic Energy Commission had been sponsoring a series of tests on the effects of radiation on the human body. American citizens who had checked into hospitals for a variety of ailments had been secretly injected with varying amounts of plutonium and other radioactive materials without their knowledge. Most patients thought it was “just another injection,” but the secret studies left enough radioactive material in the patients’ bodies to readily induce cancer………More on Human Experimentation « Paul Langley’s Nuclear History Blog […]

  3. kaos bola Says:

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