People who are part of vulnerable populations were exploited in the name of research over the years leading up to our current institutional review board and human research protections. The following is a brief list of some of the vulnerable people abused in research studies.
1908: Philadelphia researchers infected children at St. Vincent’s Home for Orphans with a virus that left some children blind. They planned to study the disease.
1911: Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research physician Hideyo Noguchi injected 146 children with syphilis to study the disease.
1939: Speech Pathologist Wendell Johnson — who was a stutterer — and research assistant Mary Tudor, used psychological abuse with the goal of inducing stuttering in normal-speaking children. His subjects were 22 children at the Iowa Soldiers’ Orphans’ Home in Davenport.
1932-1972: The Tuskegee syphilis experiment studied the progression of syphilis in hundreds of poor black men. They were denied penicillin after it was available for treatment of the disease in 1947.
1940s: The Stateville Penitentiary Malaria Study, conducted by the United States Army, State Department, and the University of Chicago, looked at the effects of malaria on prisoners of Stateville Penitentiary. Psychiatric patients at Illinois State Hospital also were infected with malaria for the testing of experimental treatments.
1940-1953: Pediatric neuropsychiatrist Lauretta Bender performed electroshock experiments on more than 100 children diagnosed with “autistic schizophrenia” at Bellevue Hospital. A later study of the children found that nearly all were worse off, with violence and suicidal tendencies.
1946-1948: A Guatemala study involved U.S. researchers using prostitutes to infect prison inmates with syphilis and other sexually transmitted diseases in order to test the effectiveness of penicillin as treatment.
1946: Vanderbilt University researchers gave more than 800 pregnant women in Tennessee “vitamin drinks” that contained radioactive iron. Researchers studied how fast the radioisotope crossed into the placenta. Some of the babies died from the experiments, and some of the effected children later died of cancer.
1946-1953: The U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, the Walter E. Fernald State School, and the Quaker Oats Corporation fed oatmeal spiked with radioisotopes to 73 mentally disabled children to track how nutrients were digested.
1950s: Dr. Robert Heath of Tulane University, also known for inventing dubious gay conversion therapy techniques, gave 42 schizophrenia patients and prisoners at the Louisiana State Penitentiary LSD and Bulbocapnine to take their EEG readings. Heath also implanted electrodes in black prisoners in New Orleans.
1950: Dr. Joseph Stokes of the University of Pennsylvania infected 200 female prisoners with viral hepatitis.
1953: The U.S. Atomic Energy Commission at the University of Iowa studied the health effects of radioactive iodine in newborns and pregnant women.
1955-1960: Mentally handicapped children with cerebral palsy and other disorders were given painful spinal taps and had air injected into their brains as part of research at Sonoma State Hospital in California. Some died from the experiments.
1950s-1972: Researchers infected mentally disabled children at Willowbrook State School in Staten Island, NY, with viral hepatitis for vaccine research. The children were fed the virus through an extract made of feces from infected patients.
1960-1971: University of Cincinnati researcher Eugene Saenger irradiated 88 poor black men, women and children. Some died within hours.
1964-1968: The U.S. Army funded experiments with mind-altering drugs on 320 inmates of Holmesburg Prison to determine the minimum effective dose needed to disable 50% of a population. Also, Albert M. Kligman conducted skin experiments on prisoners, injecting 70 prisoners with dioxin.