War can bring out the best and worst of humanity. Acts of courage are countered with acts of cowardice. Honor with evil. And it’s no coincidence that most evil human experimentation surrounds war. The stakes are so high, moral judgments become secondary or are absent. Makes you wonder what is occurring now that will slowly leak out in the years to come. Here are 10 human experiments that pushed the boundaries of science into sheer atrocities.
Why do most bad things have such creepy, bureaucratic names? Considered the Asian Auschwitz, Unit 731 was a Japanese secret biological and chemical facility set up during the Second Sino-Japanese War and World War II. It was responsible for the deaths and torture of up to 200,000 people. “Experiments” included vivisection, amputations, germ warfare tests and more, including using human targets for weaponry. For those with stronger stomachs, a Google search will reveal images for your nightmares.
Mustard Gas Testing
In 1942, the United States Navy tested mustard gas on its own sailors by placing them in gas chambers. According to “The Independent,” up to 2,500 sailors were used in what the navy called “man break” experiments. The U.S. feared Japan or Germany would use gas and wanted to develop a better defense. “Because tests using animals did not go well, researchers decided in 1942 to use human beings.” What kind of logic is that? In 1991, the Veterans Affairs Department agreed to offer compensation to mustard gas victims.
Tuskegee Syphilis Study
Between 1932 and 1972 (decades, people, decades!) black sharecroppers in Tuskegee, Alabama, were enrolled to study the progression of untreated syphilis. Who lead this study? The U.S. Public Health Service. The men in the program thought they were getting free health care, but they were never told they had syphilis and they were never treated for it. Terrible.
Sexually Transmitted Diseases and Guatemalans
Another case of thinking the ends-justify-the-means, in the mid 1940s, United States medical researchers intentionally infected hundreds of people in Guatemala with sexually transmitted diseases in order to study the progression of the diseases. In 2010, the United States finally apologized to Guatemala.
Poison Labs of the Soviet Union
The Soviets, too, threw their own poison party in a secret facility known as Laboratory 1, Laboratory 12 and Kamera. Testing began in 1921. Prisoners from the Gulag became unwilling subjects for mustard gas, ricin and other poisons. The goal of the research was to find a chemical that could not be detected after death.
Nazi Human Experimentation
The better question is what didn’t the Nazis do during World War II that wasn’t unethical or immoral? In concentration camps, they tested on unwilling participants that included bone, muscle and nerve transplantations; head injury experiments; experiments on twins; experiments with poison and dealing with hypothermia.
The Monster Study
Conducted in 1939 at the University of Iowa by Wendell Johnson, the Monster Study (dubbed that by Johnson’s peers who were horrified by it) was ostensibly research into stuttering. He took 22 orphaned children and divided them into two groups. One got praise during speech therapy; the other was constantly belittled and told they were stutterers. Many of the kids who received negative therapy suffered psychological effects and some had speech problems the rest of their life. The University of Iowa apologized for the study in 2001.
Operation Midnight Climax
The Operation (finally one with an interesting name) was part of a CIA mind-control research program that began in the 1950s. It consisted of safe houses in San Francisco and New York where non-consenting adults were given LSD and monitored behind one-way glass. The safe houses closed in 1965 and 1966 after a report by the CIA Inspector General recommended their closure.
Ohio State Prisoners and Cancer
In the 1950s, researchers from Ohio State and the Sloan-Kettering Research Institute injected cancer cells into prisoners to test vaccines. Researchers claim they lost track of most of the prisoners and thus had no results. Methinks they wanted to avoid lawsuits later on. According to “The Dispatch,” a review of archives revealed a vaccine test “in which inmates were infected with tularemia, or rabbit fever, and a test of fluoride pills to determine their effect on human blood.”
Next: 10 Notorious Prison Gangs
Stateville Penitentiary Malaria Study
In yet another example of using prisoners as guinea pigs, in the 1940s the United States Army, in conjunction with the University of Chicago, exposed prisoners at Stateville Penitentiary in order to study antimalarial drugs. The prisoners were given limited information that they were helping the war effort, but weren’t fully briefed about the nature of the experiment. During the Nuremburg Medical Trial, the Nazis argued there was no difference between the research done on American prisoners and those in concentration camps.
If you want more depressing information about how our species tortures its own, click here.