5 Unethical Medical Experiments Brought Out of the Shadows of History

5 Unethical Medical Experiments Brought Out of the Shadows of History

2021-01-11 22:30:00

Most people are aware of some of the horrific past medical experiments that violated human rights. Participation in these studies was coerced or coerced under false pretenses. Some of the most notorious examples include the Nazi experiments, the Tuskegee syphilis study, the Stanford Prison Experiment, and the CIA's LSD studies.

But there are many other lesser-known experiments with vulnerable populations that have flown under the radar. The test subjects often did not [or could not] give their consent. Sometimes they were enticed to participate with the promise of better health or a small fee. Other times, details about the experiment were revealed, but the magnitude of the risks was not.

This is perhaps not surprising, since doctors conducting these experiments were representative of the prevailing views at the time of their work. But unfortunately, even after that informed consent was introduced in the 1950s, continued to ignore the rights of certain populations. The work of some of these researchers resulted in scientific advancements, but at the expense of harmful and painful procedures in unwitting subjects.

Here are five past medical experiments you've probably never heard of. They
illustrate how far the ethical and legal signpost emphasizes it respect for human dignity most of all has moved.

The prison doctor who performed testicular transplants

From 1913 to 1951, eugenicist Leo Stanley was the chief surgeon at San Quentin State Prison, California's oldest correctional facility. After performing vasectomies on inmates, which he recruited through promises of improved health and vitality, Stanley turned his attention to the emerging field of endocrinology, which includes the study of certain glands and the hormones they regulate. He believed the effects of aging and decreased hormones contributed to crime, weak morality and poor physical qualities. Transplantation of the testicles of younger men in those who were older, masculinity would be restored, he thought.

Stanley began using the testicles of executed prisoners, but ran out of supplies. He solved this by using the testicles of animals, including goats and deer. Initially, he physically implanted the testicles directly into the prisoners. But that had complications, so he switched to a new plan: he ground the testicles of animals into a paste, which he injected into the bellies of prisoners. By the end of his time in San Quentin, Stanley made an estimate 10,000 testicular procedures.

The oncologist who injected cancer cells into patients and prisoners

In the 1950s and 1960s, oncologist Chester Southam of the Sloan-Kettering Institute conducted research to find out how people's immune systems would respond when exposed to cancer cells. To find out, he injected alive HeLa cancer cells in patients, usually without their consent. When the patient was given consent, details about the true nature of the experiment were often kept secret. Southam first experimented with terminally ill cancer patients, to whom he had easy access. The result of the injection was the growth of cancerous nodules, which led to metastasis in one person.

Southam then experimented further healthy subjects, which he thought would produce more accurate results. He recruited inmates and, perhaps unsurprisingly, their healthier immune systems responded better than cancer patients. Ultimately, Southam returned to infecting the sick and arranged for patients at Jewish Chronic Disease Hospital in Brooklyn, NY, to be injected with HeLa cells. But this time there was resistance. Three doctors who were asked participate in the experiment refused, resigned and went public.

The scandalous headlines shocked the public, and legally proceedings were initiated against Southern. Some in the scientific and medical community condemned his experiments, while others supported him. Initially, Southam's medical license was suspended for a year, but then it was reduced to probation. His career continued to be glorious and he was subsequently elected president of the American Association for Cancer Research.

The aptly named "Monster Study"

Pioneering speech pathologist Wendell Johnson suffered from severe stuttering that started early in his youth. To be own experience motivated his focus in finding the cause and hopefully a cure for stuttering. He theorized that stuttering in children can be influenced by external factors, such as negative reinforcement. In 1939, under Johnson's supervision, PhD student Mary Tudor conducted a stuttering experiment with 22 children in an orphanage in Iowa. Half received positive reinforcement. But the other half were ridiculed and criticized for their speech, whether they actually stuttered or not. This resulted in a worsening of speech problems for the children who received negative feedback.

The research was never published due to the multitude of ethical violations. According to The Washington Post, Tudor repented about the damage caused by the experiment and returned to the orphanage to help the children with their speech. Despite its ethical flaws, the Wendell Johnson Speech and Hearing Clinic at the University of Iowa bears the name Johnson and is a nod to his contributions to the field.

The dermatologist who used prisoners like guinea pigs

One of the biggest breakthroughs in dermatology was the invention of Retin-A, a cream that can treat sun damage, wrinkles and other skin conditions. Its success led to fortune and fame for co-inventor Albert Kligman, a dermatologist at the University of Pennsylvania. But Kligman is also known for his nefarious dermatology experiments with prisoners it started in 1951 and took about 20 years. He conducted his research on behalf of companies such as DuPont and Johnson & Johnson.

Kligman's work often left prisoners painful and scarred when he used them as subjects in wound healing and exposed them to deodorants, foot powders and more for chemical and cosmetic companies. Dow once enlisted Kligman to study the effects of dioxin, a chemical in Agent Orange, on 75 inmates at Holmesburg Prison in Pennsylvania. The prisoners received a small amount for their participation, but were not told about the possible side effects.

In the Journal of the University of Pennsylvania, Almanac, Kligman & # 39; s obituary focused on his medical advancements, awards and philanthropy. There was no acknowledgment of his prison experiments. However, it did mention that as a "giant in the field", he "also experienced a great deal of controversy."

The endocrinologist who irradiated prisoners

When the Atomic Energy Commission wanted to find out how radiation affected male reproductive function, they looked into it endocrinologist Carl Heller. In a study of Oregon State Penitentiary inmates between 1963 and 1973, Heller designed a device that would beam their testicles in varying amounts to see what effect it had, especially on sperm production. The inmates were also subjected to repeat biopsies and had to undergo vasectomies once the experiments were completed.

Although the study participants were paid, this raised ethical questions about the possible compelling nature of financial compensation for prison populations. Inmates were informed of the risks of burns, but were likely not told of the possibility of significant pain, inflammation, and the small risk of testicular cancer.


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