Today, we look at the countless ways prison inmates have been used as human test subjects. Sometimes they agreed to participate for a shortened sentence, sometimes they had no idea what was going on and no choice but to subject themselves as ordered.
This article originally appeared in at American Free News Network on Nov. 11, 2021.
By Ethan Imaap
This series explores the experiments conducted on Americans without their full knowledge or consent from the mid-19th Century to today. Testing on animals garners more outcry and more legal protection than testing on human beings. Subjects have ranged from military members and prisoners to men, women, and children in populations marginalized by race or mental incapacity. In a few instances, such as observing untreated syphilis in Alabaman sharecroppers without ever allowing them access to the cure, testing atomic weapons over the Marshall Islands and its people, or trying to mind-control soldiers and citizens through all types of physical and emotional abuse, Congressional committees concluded that experimenting on humans without securing their fully informed consent was wrong. So, the government-backed scientists and medical researchers did what they always do when light is shined on their transgressions: They hid their activities by changing agency names, outsourcing projects to non-government organizations, or calling the project something else. Not even a scapegoat was offered to assuage public outrage, what little there was of it. Anyone who experiments on a human without their consent, including injecting them with a gene-altering vaccine, needs to be arrested and tried for medical battery and crimes against humanity.
We start with history, because it always repeats itself and offers clear road marks to what is happening today. Here’s what we’ve covered so far:
Today, we look at the countless ways prison inmates have been used as human test subjects. Sometimes they agreed to participate for a shortened sentence, sometimes they had no idea what was going on and no choice but to subject themselves as ordered. On occasion they were even employed to their own detriment, acting as lab technicians, secretaries, and gatekeepers to the studies as a method of rewarding or punishing other prisoners. If you do the crime, you better be prepared to do the time, no question. That does not mean you give up your membership in the human race. It does not mean you literally must donate your testicles to science.
Army Gives Filipino Prisoners the Plague
As mentioned in Part 4, in 1906, Harvard University professor and then-head of the Philippine Biological Laboratory, Richard P. Strong took a U.S. Army experiment and upped its ante. Army doctors stationed in the Philippines had infected five Filipino prisoners with bubonic plague and 29 were induced with beriberi, which is caused by a thiamine deficiency. Strong then infected 24 inmates at Manila’s Bilibid Prison with cholera, except—oops—the cholera was contaminated with bubonic plague. None of the patients knew what was going on; they were not informed. They all got sick and 13 died.
This angered the Philippines governor-general, who wanted a full investigation. The U.S. Senate, Secretary of War, as it was called then, and the President, which was Theodore Roosevelt, were kept apprised of the developments, but no mainland investigations were forthcoming. Strong was slapped on the wrist for not locking his incubators and for leaving a visiting physician alone in the laboratory where he may have exposed the cholera cultures to plague cultures. A committee outlined the problems and urged reform, which the U.S. government ignored. Strong failed upward and continued with a notable career in tropical medicine.
You’ll Get Molasses and Like It
In 1907, as the government got more stringent about the safety of food additives, the Louisiana State Board of Health decided to feed black prisoners nothing but molasses for five weeks to determine if sulfuric acid, which is used in the production of molasses, was safe for human consumption. The prisoners did not object because what good would it do if they complained. The people complained though, both scientists and average citizens.
Eugenicist Conducts Testicular Implants and Sterilizations
Dr. Leo Stanley spent 38 years transplanting testicles and sterilizing prisoners as chief surgeon at San Quentin Prison. At first, he used the testicles of executed prisoners, and when he ran out of those, he opted for the testicles of rams, goats, and boars. The recipients were other prisoners, usually older white men. He missed the part that if a man were able to conceive a child after a transplant, it would have the genetic makeup of the donor, not the recipient. Stanley sterilized prisoners whose race he considered undesirable. Forced sterilization was legal at the time, but Stanley wholeheartedly believed that the procedure would prevent disease, which it doesn’t, and that it would improve virility. He himself had a vasectomy and lived to be 90, but, though married, he never had any children himself, despite his belief that white Christians needed to have more children. Christians of all races should be supported and encouraged in the birthing and raising of God-loving children, but if we don’t call out the evildoers in our midst, we’re no better than our enemies. Stanley’s experiments were evil, producing zero results at best and negative effects at worst. Mashing testicles into a paste and injecting it into the patient’s stomach is depraved and wrong.
Most interestingly, a man wrote a letter to the wife of a soon-to-be-executed prisoner offering her $10,000 for her husband’s testicles. And there’s the crux of the matter: People will pay huge sums for whatever organ they seek, a situation ripe for black-market abuses. The wife, God bless her, despite needing the money to support her daughters in face of her breadwinner’s impending death, refused. It seemed like blood money to her. Stanley couldn’t have cared less; he took her husband’s testicles for his own experiments.
The Epicenter of Unethical Experiments on Inmates: Holmesburg Prison
For 23 years, from 1951 to 9174, Holmesburg Prison in Pennsylvania was the home of dermatological research, using prisoners as test subjects, on behalf of Dow Chemical, the U.S. Army, and Johnson & Johnson. It seems that workers at Dow were breaking out in chloracne, which presents as extreme cases of acne on the cheeks, behind the ears, and in the armpit and groin areas. Dr. Albert M. Kligman, professor of dermatology at the University of Pennsylvania, lead the study to figure out how dioxin and other herbicides affected the skin. He used the same amount of chemical on prisoners that the Dow employees were being exposed to. (Later, Klingman upped the ante, using 7,500 micrograms of dioxin on the skin of 10 prisoners. That’s 468 times higher than Gerald K. Rowe, a Dow official, had authorized him to use. Inflammatory pustules and papules were the result.) In the early 1980s, Kligman was sued because the human beings he used as his test subjects suffered from a variety of health problems, including lupus and psychological damage.
Inmates did receive a small stipend to test a slew of cosmetics and chemicals on their skin. Medical News reported in 1964 that 9 out of 10 prisoners at Holmesburg were test subjects. Then the U.S. Army paid Klingman to apply skin-blistering agents to the faces and backs of Holmesburg inmates. The purpose was to see how the skin protected itself through what was called the hardening process. Who is this Kligman guy, anyway? We’re not done yet.
The U.S. Army ponied up again for a study that ran from 1964 to 1968 and netted Kligman and another professor, Herbert W. Copelan close to $400,000 to give Holmesburg inmates, 320 of them to be exact, mind-altering drugs. The goal was to see how much of the drug was needed to disable any particular segment of the population. The duo lied when they claimed they didn’t know of any long-term health problems from the drugs; documents revealed they did know how devastating it was to the prisoners.
So, who is the Kligman guy? According to the Alliance for Human Research Protection, to which we all owe a debt of gratitude, for its work “Advancing Voluntary, Informed Consent to Medical Intervention, Kligman ran tests on these “acres of skin” on “behalf of 33 pharmaceutical companies and secret service government agencies.” There were plenty of benign tests involving toothpaste, deodorant, hair dye, and detergent, but painful biopsies were required with those as well. In one experiment for the U.S. Army, Kligman noted that small amounts of radioactive isotopes on the skin of an inmate could lead to the destruction of the nervous system and central function of the brain. Kligman is the type of guy who arrives at Holmesburg and gets giddy over the “acres of skin.”
Female Prisoners Are Test Subjects Too
The University of Pennsylvania produced another doctor, Dr. Joseph Stokes in the company of Kligman. He decided in 1950 to infect 200 female prisoners with viral hepatitis, which causes inflammation of the liver.
By the way, if you’d like an exhaustive list of all these human-testing horrors, State of The Nation has compiled it in one place.
Ohio Cons Sentenced to Cancer
In 1952 at the Ohio State Penitentiary, a researcher for Sloan-Kettering Institute, Chester M. Southam, injected live cancer cells into inmates. An additional 300 healthy females at the institute were similarly injected without their knowledge. The doctors knew this was likely to cause cancer. The now Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center is home of the first fellowship program funded by the Rockefellers. I’m confused. Are they trying to cure cancer, or cause cancer so they can make money and then donate money to people learning how to cure the cancer they cause?
Radioactive Transfusions Led to Deformed Babies
Utah State Prison got in on testing humans in 1961 by drawing blood samples from inmates, mixing the samples with radioactive chemicals, and then reinjecting the blood back into the inmates. And upon release and reunion with their wives, children were born deformed, with exposed spines, and lives measured in days, not years. The wife of one inmate worried her husband could contract cancer, but he participated for the $10, which went a long way at the time. Other inmates were unable to conceive at all.
Back to Balls
For 10 years endocrinologist Dr. Carl Heller irradiated the testicles of 67 prisoners in Oregon State Penitentiary. Prisoners got $5 a month and $100 for the mandatory vasectomy at the end of the trial. The vasectomy was non-negotiable because Heller didn’t want “radiation-induced mutants” out in the population. The inmates received over 400 rads of radiation, which equals about 2,400 chest x-rays, in 10 minute intervals. Funding? Pacific Northwest Research Foundation of Seattle, and NASA.
Listen, we’re all grateful that government entities cared about space radiation on the testicles of astronauts or those working at the country’s atomic energy plants. That doesn’t mean that we get to abuse other human beings without their consent, possibly destroying their ability to reproduce and leaving them with cancer. National security cannot be at the cost of our unsuspecting countrymen’s lives.
Courtly Scientists? Nope, Still Evil
It does not matter if a scientist is kind and empathetic if they are experimenting on people without full knowledge or consent. Tulane University psychiatrist Dr. Robert Heath, financially backed by the U.S. Army, experimented on patients diagnosed with schizophrenia. He gave them LSD and bulbocapnine
Dr. Robert Heath of Tulane University performed experiments on 42 patients with schizophrenia and prisoners in the Louisiana State Penitentiary. The experiments were funded by the U.S. Army. In the studies, he dosed them with LSD and bulbocapnine, which is fatal to sheep, but in Heath’s use, put men in a stupor. He then implanted electrodes into the septal area of the brain, the pleasure center, to stimulate it and take electroencephalography (EEG) readings. There is nothing more terrifying than being give a drug that causes you to lose control of your body. Oh, wait. There is: Total invasion of your life. Privacy needs to be a human right, enshrined in our governing documents.
By the 1970s Heath is filming patients as he stimulates various areas of their brains. John Horgan attempted to gain access to the films for use in an article he was writing for Scientific American in 2017. Needless to say, despite Heath being compassionate and kindly to his victims, Tulane refused to release the films. Enter patient B-19. B-19 was in police custody for vagrancy and possession of marijuana. He was male, 24, with epilepsy, depression, drug abuse, and, he was a homosexual. He agreed to Heath’s testing, although one could make the argument that he was hardly in his right mind when he did so. Heath got to the level of stimulating his pleasure center with heterosexual images. He then took it a step farther and hired a prostitute for $50 to help the test subject have a satisfying heterosexual encounter. They were put in a black curtained room and B-19 was given enough slack to the wires in his head to move freely. Heath, et. al. were outside the room, monitoring brain signals coming from B-19 throughout the encounter. Heath said the man continued on as heterosexual, but other sources cast doubt on that.
We can argue whether B-19 was a willing participant, but we cannot argue that this kind of research can only be conducted by people who are fully aware of any harm that could happen to them. Full disclosure is mandatory. If, for scientific purposes, the subjects cannot be made aware off all aspects of the study for fear of their knowledge tainting the result, then, by God, they should receive a thorough de-brief, and compensation if warranted.
A Weapon Actually Called Active Denial System
If you think that all this testing on prisoners has stopped, think again. In 2010 U.S. weapons manufacturer Raytheon partnered with a jail in Castaic, California, to use prisoners as test subjects. The Active Denial System, or heat ray, fires an invisible heat beam that causes unbearable pain. It’s referred to as the pain ray by anyone who has been subjected to it. All the testing is cheery: Pain and skin burns return to normal once the ray is stopped. No damage to those wearing contacts. Well, phew, that’s good news. No difference in how it affects different age groups. Nobody can withstand more than 5 seconds and the majority can’t stand more than 3. In a rare moment of sanity, the Pentagon balked at using it in Iraq, not out of compassion for humanity, but because they were afraid it would be used as an instrument of torture. It also made it to the Stan, but again, was not used.
One problem with the weapon is that weather like rain and snow can make the person simply feel warm and cozy, rather like the comfy cushion in Monty Python’s “Nobody Expects the Spanish Inquisition” skit. It may only work on bare skin and therefore thick or emergency-blanket-type clothing can be a defense against the pain ray. We’ll all be wearing tinfoil from head to toe if this keeps on as it’s going because the Chinese, the Russians, and intelligence communities in our own government could very well be using this type of thing against Americans. Oh, and there’s no way to tell if the long-term effects of the areas exposed aren’t at higher risk for cancer.
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