5 Of The Least Ethical Medical Experiments In Modern History

To some, the Hippocratic oath is more a suggestion.
5 Of The Least Ethical Medical Experiments In Modern History

Most people trust just about anyone standing around a hospital with a stethoscope, even though there's no law about wildly unqualified randos hanging out in hospitals with stethoscopes. Anyone can buy those things. Then again, maybe you shouldn't trust real medical professionals all that much either. That's probably terrible advice overall, but there have been innumerable times that doctors have broken their codes of ethics. And we're not talking about Nazis or dudes with beaks poking at plague victims, either ...

The U.S. Government Irradiated Dozens Of Children Just To See What Would Happen

In the '90s, Pulitzer-Prize-winning journalist Eileen Welsome uncovered what she called "The Plutonium Files" -- documentation of a vast conspiracy wherein America spent most of the '40s and '50 doing involuntary radiation experiments on unwitting citizens. The first was performed by members of the Manhattan Project, who injected 18 people with plutonium-238, the deadliest radioactive substance on Earth. These men, women, and children (many working-class and/or black) were supposedly terminally ill anyway, and thus expendable in the eyes of the most murderous scientists in history. But plenty lived long enough to develop horrific cancerous tumors which necessitated amputation, all without realizing they'd been turned into glow-in-the-dark guinea pigs.

Weirder but just as cruel, between 1945 and 1953, MIT conducted a series of government-sanctioned and wildly unethical experiments on children, feeding them irradiated bowls of cereal to track how their young bodies absorbed the nutrients. Their victims were from Walter E. Fernald State School in Massachusetts, an institute for mentally troubled and disabled boys, and the 74 participants in this "Science Club" didn't know they were the lab rats.

These downtrodden children (many didn't have, or weren't allowed to see, parents) were bribed with trips to baseball games, parties, and Mickey Mouse watches in exchange for their livelihoods. Perhaps most disturbing was that this was all sponsored by the good people at Quaker Oats, who even supplied the tainted cereal in the hopes they could use the results in a demented ad campaign.

So on the extremely off chance you didn't find Quaker Oats disgusting already, there's another reason to.

But don't worry, there was some accountability here. Bill Clinton launched an investigation into the cover-up. He then released the report with a televised apology ... on the day of the O.J. Simpson trial verdict.

Related: The 6 Cruelest Science Experiments Ever (Were Done On Kids)

Australian Electroshock Sleep Therapy Was A Fatal Nightmare

In the 1960s and '70s, Harry Bailey was a trusted Australian physician, purported to have developed a medical procedure called "deep sleep therapy." Dr. Bailey would put patients into two-week drug-induced comas with "beautiful" chemicals. Then, while they were off on their extended vacation to dreamland, he would shock the living hell out them in a way-too-literal attempt to rewire their subconscious.

5 Of The Least Ethical Medical Experiments In Modern History
Chelmsford Hospital
Sure it's harsh, but you need serious treatments for things like schizophrenia, drug addiction, and ... er ... PMS and weight loss.

But Bailey had the professionalism, ethics, and insight of a methed-out carny operating the tilt-a-whirl. He applied electroconvulsive therapy without the typical relaxants and anesthetics, causing his patients to convulse and thrash so heavily that they'd vomit even while unconscious. He once even applied these tortuous methods to a woman suffering cerebral hemorrhaging, despite the obvious and lethal risks. And whenever he straight up killed a patient (some estimate 80-something casualties, including a 14-year-old boy), he would simply forge their death certificates. Of those who did survive the electrocution, hallucinations, and botched comas, several wound up taking their own lives to escape the memories of their electric nightmares.

Critics faulted the treatment, but no scientist was willing to destroy their reputation by going after the most popular doctor in the country. The sleep cult was only exposed after members of a real cult, the Church of Scientology (who don't like psychoanalysts for obvious reasons) backed whistleblowers who exposed the horror to the nation. But in 1985, before he could be held responsible for his crimes against humanity, Bailey died by suicide. Or maybe that's what the Inception-style hit squad wants us to think.

Related: 5 Of The Most Horrifying Human Experiments Ever Conducted

A Psychiatrist Secretly Separated Twins At Birth For A Meaningless Experiment

When Robert Shafran went to college, he didn't expect to see ... himself. But there he met Edward Galland, his long-lost identical sibling. And when they got their picture in the paper, a man named David Kellman also didn't expect to see ... himselves.

It turned out that Robert, Edward, and David were identical triplets who had been given up for adoption at birth. One was adopted by a rich family, one by a middle-class one, and one by working-class parents. It seemed almost cute. At first.

Reunited at the age of 19, it was only much later that the brothers found out that their separation hadn't been serendipity, but a conspiracy. They had been one of several groups of identical Jewish siblings who had been the subject of a bizarre psychological experiment. Through a complicit adoption agency, the triplets had been strategically separated as part of a psychological experiment on nature vs. nurture by Austrian psychiatrist Peter Neubauer. It seems no one stopped to think if there was any historical reason not to let an unethical Germanic doctor experiment on Jewish children.

Throughout their childhood, the three brothers had been constantly monitored to gauge the effects of different parenting styles and income levels on the same child (genetically speaking). Neubauer even sent out aides to their houses to collect data while pretending to be random surveyors. He also refused to share his extensive medical examinations of the kids with their parents, preferring to see how they coped with (preventable) genetic time bombs -- which was the reason the two poorer brothers both developed a lazy eye.

We still don't know how many siblings Neubauer tore apart, but we can tell you what all that was worth: nothing. From what little of his research has been made available to the public, it seems Neubauer's experiment was utterly inconclusive, and his last shameful act in this world was to seal his research in the Yale vault until 2065 so none of his victims could ever find out exactly how pointless his experiment had been.

Related: The 5 Scariest Things About Life As A Human Test Subject

Quebec Treated Healthy Orphans As Mentally Ill For Extra Funding

During the middle part of the 20th century, Quebec suffered through the Great Darkness -- a time of almost medieval barbarism perpetrated by its premier, Maurice Duplessis, who was the kind of conservative zealot who didn't let women go to college, thought God didn't approve of unions, and figured that the mistreatment of orphans could become the most valuable currency in the land.

Under Duplessis' leadership, Quebec found a way to squeeze beaucoup bucks out of the federal government. They realized that subsidies for mental health facilities were twice as high as those for orphanages, and in Quebec, the Catholic Church ran both. So the church and the provincial government made a scummy deal: Take all those worthless orphans and turn them into a mentally ill goldmine.

Later dubbed the "Duplessis Orphans," thousands of perfectly sane children were reclassified as mentally ill purely to help turn a profit. As a result, they were taken out of school and thrown into Catholic mental wards, where they were abused, drugged, electrocuted, and raped by sadistic staff. Eventually the Great Darkness gave way to the Quiet Revolution (which sounds a bit more appropriately Canadian) and the orphans were freed, but only after the Catholic Church made tens of millions of dollars scarring them for life.

The effects are still being felt today. Studies have shown that, compared to the average citizen, Duplessis Orphans have a harder time keeping jobs and forming trusting relationships. If only there were some way to explain this ...

Related: 6 Elaborate Science Experiments Done Just For The Hell Of It

The American Psychological Association Helped The Government Torture People

In the early days of the War on Terror, the Bush administration tried to justify the use of "enhanced interrogation" by having a mental health professional present at such interrogation sessions. That way, when the CIA was turning prisoners into human pretzels and employing weaponized enemas, it was perfectly legit. After all, such ethical beings would surely step in if anything was truly torture.

5 Of The Least Ethical Medical Experiments In Modern History
Helen4780/Wikimedia Commons
Hmm, how Freudian.

Not having any luck with psychiatrists and their pesky Hippocratic Oath, the government found its ally in the American Psychological Association, which had strong ties to the Department of Defense (a whopping 7% of its membership profited from DoD contracts). APA management immediately jumped into bed with the spies without asking any problematic questions, conspiring with officials to rewrite their policies so they could allow APA-approved clinical psychologists to not only attend torture sessions without ramifications, but even take on torture consultant roles.

When confronted with evidence of this in 2015, the APA insisted they let their members be present to deter the use of torture. Like torture victims, this excuse didn't hold water. A Senate committee concluded that the APA-sponsored practices were creative applications of traumatic abuse (i.e. torture). Three of its highest-ranking members were kicked out after they were identified as complicit, but the association didn't suffer any legal ramifications. After all, by 2015, the government no longer wanted to talk about enhanced interrogation either.

For more, check out What Your Doctor Wants To Tell You, But Can't:

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