Medical Research Gone Wrong
Every once in a while ugly truths sneak out from under the carpets of time, history, politics, science, and even the current ‘sacred cows’ within the medical domain. Facts that are uncovered result from dogged dedication that overtakes those who have seen the “light of day” and wish to share unknown histories with others who, in turn, can become empowered by that hidden knowledge. Such dedication to revealing the secret history of medical experimentation on children in Cold War United States became a reality in 2013 when authors Allen M. Hornblum, Judith L. Newman, and Gregory J. Dober published their phenomenal book, Against Their Will, The Secret History of Medical Experimentation on Children in Cold War America.
Against Their Will offers a full menu of chapters dealing with medical research transpiring in the Cold War era, e.g., lobotomy, electroshock treatments, LSD-radiation-candy to induce cavities-ringworm-administered to children, thalidomide, DES given to pregnant women, plus other research for anyone interested.
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Since this writer is a consumer health researcher for almost 40 years and counting, she reads anything she can get her hands on to establish bases for scientific fact, hype, or spin since much of the information given to the public is sanitized in order to comply with certain rudiments for proselytization and acceptance as ‘gospel truth’ by consumers with little training in medical issues and no time nor apparent inclination for learning the scientific facts.
With that stipulation up front, hopefully, readers will understand the reasoning behind what some may claim to be a book review. However, this article is much more than that. It is a testament to the fact that more zealotry than science was pervasive in the early years of modern medicine from the very beginning. Much centered upon using young children in orphanages and state-run institutions for the incapacitated and physically-challenged in the United States, and until rather recently!
Did readers ever wonder how medical research became such a driving force and a “respected science”? Literally, its genesis can be found in the ruined lives of children – innocent children, who were used as human guinea pigs.
That seems so dramatically calloused that it may be viewed as a figment of someone’s imagination, as such gory things possibly couldn’t have ever happened, especially in the USA. Well, it did and it’s documented in the book, Against Their Will.
As a consumer health and healthcare researcher since the late 1970s, this writer has read many accounts of medical science and how it evolved, or is progressing, but nothing compares with the extraordinary research and storytelling by the book’s three authors:
~ Allen M. Hornblum, a prolific author, who taught inmates in Philadelphia prisons for years, gained the experience and observations that led to writing the book Acres of Skin in the late 1990s. That book focused on the research exploitation of prisoners.
~ Judith L. Newman is an Associate Professor of Human Development and Family Studies at Penn State University, the Abington College location, who also teaches the Ethics course every semester to psychology majors. Dr. Newman and Mr. Hornblum have been friends since the 1970s, and have had discussions about research abuses throughout the decades.
~ Gregory J. Dober is a writer on medical issues for organizational newsletters such as Prison Legal News.
The authors’ collaborative efforts resulted in a ‘forensic autopsy’ of medical experimentation. The book documents beyond a scintilla of doubt the horrors that took place under the exuberant zeal of physicians who were so determined to make a name for themselves in various areas of fledgling pharmacology, especially vaccines.
Chapter 5, Vaccines: “Institutions for Hydrocephalics and Other Similar Unfortunates” details the sordid experiments that took place. One parent who was interviewed for the book said, “My child was injected with a meningitis virus, and no one asked my permission or informed me what was going on.” [pp.81-82]
At the Hamburg (Pennsylvania) Residential Center for the Retarded, new vaccines were tested at that facility by Dr. Robert Weibel, a University of Pennsylvania pediatrician. Weibel defended his actions saying, “This makes their lives worthwhile. They’ll be making a contribution to society.” [p.83]
Other institutions, such as White Haven and Laurelton, turned over “their charges to researchers who were perfecting new vaccines for an array of diseases.” [p.83]
Dr. Jonas Salk also utilized these ‘willing volunteers’. “The Ypsilanti State Hospital in Michigan was home to a wide assortment of mentally and retarded patients. Salk, along with several other researchers, took over a ninety-six-man ward, injected half the men with an experimental vaccine, and then ‘exposed [them] to infection by inhalation of a strain of Type B influenza virus.’15 It would certainly not be the last time Salk utilized such institutions.” [p.87]
15 Jonas E. Salk, Harold E. Pearson, Philip N. Brown, and Thomas Francis Jr., “Protective Effect of Vaccination against Induced Influenza B,” Journal of Clinical Investigation 24, No. 4 (July 1945): 547-553.
Vaccine researcher Hilary Koprowski did research on yellow fever at the Rockefeller Foundation. However, he had greater aspirations. “‘I decided to first attenuate [weaken] poliomyelitis virus, then to find out whether it was possible to develop a vaccine that would replicate in human gut without causing signs of disease, and then to immunize people by feeding them this vaccine.’ Koprowski planned on his creation being the world’s ‘first oral vaccine’.” [p.89]
Koprowski’s drive led to this: “On February 27, 1950, the first human subject was immunized with poliomyelitis virus by drinking an emulsion of cotton rat brain and cord.” [p.90] Catherine notes that not much has changed because in 2014 vaccines contain similar animal tissues, except they are the vaccine growth media injected into the bloodstream, which bypasses the gut and contributes to health problems.
Another physician, “Dr. Stokes [was] vaccinating female prisoners in a New Jersey penal facility and using their newborn children as research subjects.” [p.91]
Many medical researchers claimed the children were “volunteers.” However, the British medical journal The Lancet “chided Koprowski for suggesting that children in his studies were actually ‘volunteers’.” [Lancet, March 15, 1952, p.522] [p.92] “… ‘defective children’ and other disadvantaged populations had become ‘standard practice’ among medical researchers.” [p.93]
One virologist, Dr. Howard A. Howe, used 11 bedridden children, ages 2 to 5, for antibody response of chimpanzees and humans to a polio vaccine, and about which he wrote an article. According to Howe, all “were low-grade idiots or imbeciles with congenital hydrocephalus, microcephaly, or cerebral palsy.” [p.93]
Thomas Rivers, a prominent virologist in 20th century virology “believed that the [polio] vaccine had never been proved safe and that some people – at least 8 by his count – might have contracted polio from the inoculation.” [p.95] Catherine interjects with that’s still happening BIG time with the oral polio vaccine campaigns sponsored by GAVI. In 2011, 47,500 children contracted what’s called Non-polio acute flaccid paralysis (NPAFP) as reported in the Indian Journal of Medical Ethics:
…while India has been polio-free for a year, there has been a huge increase in non-polio acute flaccid paralysis (NPAFP). In 2011, there were an extra 47,500 new cases of NPAFP. Clinically indistinguishable from polio paralysis but twice as deadly, the incidence of NPAFP was directly proportional to doses of oral polio received. Though this data was collected within the polio surveillance system, it was not investigated. The principle of primum-non-nocere [First, do no harm] was violated.” [Every link to the study on the Internet says it cannot be found, i.e., it’s been removed from Internet search engines capabilities. See this resource as corroboration.
Catherine could not help but interject this question, “What do you think about the Cutter vaccine incident that created flaccid paralysis in vaccines in 1955?” Mr. Dober answered with, “Poor quality control, and it would not be farfetched to see it happen again in the future.” Well, it has and does happen routinely, and it’s not during research, but long after the research for the polio vaccines ended, as Catherine pointed out above.
Similar NPAFP incidences have occurred in Sudan, Nigeria, and Pakistan. However and unfortunately, the U.S. media and press do not report tragic medical mishaps regarding vaccines, as that would invalidate the much-hyped vaccination mandates as pseudo-science, since vaccines can cause the very diseases they have been touted as preventing. Doesn’t it seem that the old days’ practices continue on affecting children’s lives?
Since vaccine issues have been an integral part of Catherine’s research since the 1980s, she felt compelled to report what went on with them from authors who did their voluminous research. Catherine visited and interviewed Professor Newman in her Penn State office, and received a most welcome response to granting an interview, the questions of which were shared with her co-authors.
To understand the motivations that brought the research and book into being, Catherine asked how long it took to collaborate on writing it, plus how was the writing load apportioned. Allen Hornblum said the discussions and research began around 2009 with his writing the manuscript with certain subjects and chapters taken by Newman and Dober, who passed their findings back to him to incorporate into the manuscript, since he’s a many-times published author.
Dr. Newman offered that Greg Dober and she read much of the empirical work. Mr. Dober did vaccines, radiation; she did diet/skin/teeth, psychological treatment, psychological abuse, reproduction, and research misconduct. Mr. Hornblum did most of the interviews with Mr. Dober interviewing Cyril Wecht and digging up leads for personal interviews. Many still are reluctant to be interviewed, e.g., survivors of the “Monster Study,” which was the intentional creation of stuttering in normal children by researchers who criticized every utterance of the orphans in the ‘treatment’ group discussed in Chapter 9, Psychological Abuse. To learn what that unconscionable study entailed, click on this report.
The book could have been twice as long, except the publishers, according to Newman, wanted focus to be on Cold War era medical research, thus the book’s title. Admittedly, the authors did not include information they found regarding research with preemie babies in the 1950s, research with Native American children, etc. Furthermore, she contends there are many studies they undoubtedly did not uncover.
Mr. Hornblum says sections were cut out concerning the doctors’ trial at Nuremberg; the formation of the Nuremberg Code; efforts over the years to weaken the Code; many additional examples of unethical research; and more examples of questionable research practices that the book’s editor considered off target and unnecessary to the main thrust of the book, i.e., Cold War era medical research.
Regarding the authors’ perception of medicine’s and pharmacology’s current predatory position with regard to its belief that it knows it all and that there is no room for deviation from its set agenda in some respects, which Catherine questioned, Greg Dober responded with,
The commercial agenda has been prevalent since the beginning of modern medicine in America. The AMA wanted licensure to remove quackery. The AMA lobbied to have osteopaths and others banned from medicine, etc. The AMA wanted control over the med schools. (See Flexner Report) For me, this attitude isn’t surprising in health care. Unfortunately, it has carried over to pharma over the years. It is more lucrative to treat chronic illness for a lifetime than to find cures. Pfizer spent 4 billion dollars marketing Viagra when it first came out to the market. As long as there are shareholders and return on equity that CEOs must account for, they will continue to dominate the market with whatever they can sell. See the book, Our Daily Meds by Melody Peterson. Peterson in her book notes about a company that had a drug but no disease. The CEO told his people, go out and find me a syndrome!
After reading the book, two questions gnawed at Catherine, so she had to ask the authors for answers. The first was, “Why do you think so many in government and medicine looked the other way during those sordid days of ‘research’ until rather recently in time, i.e., the late 1960s?”
Professor Newman answered with this:
We start from the premise that the authority and god-like power ascribed to medical doctors especially over the first many decades of the 1900s was mixed with the strongly popular eugenics perspective of these doctors. Eugenecists assumed that persons who were poor or sick or psychologically unstable or of low intelligence as assessed by IQ tests had bad genes and, therefore, should not reproduce and/or could be used for risky research since they were quite simply not valued. As demeaning as I think the word ‘subjects’ is in describing one’s sample, as opposed to a word like ‘participant’, these exploited and devalued children were often referred to as material for the study or even as inmates.
Now add to this almost ‘perfect storm’ of eugenics and powerful doctors, the third component that we provide as a context for these studies, which is the patriotism engendered by fear of the enemy in World War II and the Cold War with concerns of atomic bomb radiation effects, mind control and the torture of prisoners of war, and then the concern over another enemy – contagious diseases. All of this fear and rah-rah conforming patriotism led to a sense that vulnerable and devalued populations could be included in the research about such issues as a service to their country, since they could not serve in more typical ways. So the context of how good people do evil things and how others do nothing to stop it may now be a bit better understood.
The other question Catherine asked was, “How did writing this book affect you personally, and your perception of the medical arts?”
Dr. Newman replied,
I think I was more aware than most on faculty given my long time concern about research ethics and the violations of ethical principles that I am very sensitive to when I read journal articles or discuss research. But, the sheer quantity of such unethical research was staggering. What stunned me was the clear distinction between treatments or enrichments that had the likelihood of yielding a positive result being conducted with healthy children in their own homes with parents but if risks/harms were possible or likely, then these especially vulnerable children that we focus on were targeted with no informed assent from them or informed consent from parents in most cases.
I think the students in my courses are always engaged by this information and I hope it effects their perspective going forward as they read, think about, or even conduct research with human participants – notice I don’t even use the term human ‘subjects’, as I find the term so suggestive of exploitation. It was interesting about four months ago when Allen and I brought some of the victims of research abuses [named in the book] onto my campus to speak. The students in the audience became quite emotional even though some had only come because their instructors offered extra credit. However, if you lead them to the important and relevant material, change can happen.
After Catherine submitted a prepublication courtesy copy of this article to Dr. Newman, she emailed back, “Another important piece in the book is the fudging or fabricating of data by researchers whose false conclusions then had repercussions for other children.”
Thank you so much for pointing out that oversight on Catherine’s part, since data mismanagement and fudging continue to happen. One classic example is what’s referred to as the Simpsonwood Meeting in June 2000 when U.S. government health agencies, the World Health Organization representative, and vaccine makers pow-wowed to rework the findings that ethylmercury in Thimerosal did not cause nor contribute to autism when, in fact, the Vaccine Safety Datalink study numbers had proved it did! You can read the 286-page transcript of the “Scientific Review of Vaccine Safety Datalink Information,” June 7-8, 2000 meeting at Simpsonwood Retreat Center, Norcross, Georgia here. Or, this quick synopsis.
Catherine heartily recommends Against Their Will. One point she would like to emphasize is Dr. Newman’s remark above about informed assent and/or informed consent from parents. That is key and most appropriate today, especially with regard to vaccinations. Parents are not told the critically important information about the adverse effects of vaccines, which should be mandated by law for informed consent, since vaccinations are quasi-surgical procedures that insert foreign and toxic materials into children that can and do cause harm.
Vaccine package inserts list Contraindications and Adverse Events, which parents are not privy to have but should know. Those administering vaccines ought to be made to abide by ethical standards of informed consent, tell parents all the bad things that can happen from vaccines, just not the standard hype promulgated by vaccine manufacturers, which the CDC/FDA willingly parrot.
Where were the CDC and FDA when the horrors of medical research were going on and documented in this book? We have to extrapolate from the past to make the future safer in medicine. The book Against Their Will offers the best place to begin, and Catherine cannot congratulate the authors enough for their efforts to bring to light of day, a dark and hidden past. Kudos!
Catherine J Frompovich (website) is a retired natural nutritionist who earned advanced degrees in Nutrition and Holistic Health Sciences, Certification in Orthomolecular Theory and Practice plus Paralegal Studies. Her work has been published in national and airline magazines since the early 1980s. Catherine authored numerous books on health issues along with co-authoring papers and monographs with physicians, nurses, and holistic healthcare professionals. She has been a consumer healthcare researcher 35 years and counting.
Catherine’s latest book, published October 4, 2013, is Vaccination Voodoo, What YOU Don’t Know About Vaccines, available on Amazon.com.
Her 2012 book A Cancer Answer, Holistic BREAST Cancer Management, A Guide to Effective & Non-Toxic Treatments, is available on Amazon.com and as a Kindle eBook.
Two of Catherine’s more recent books on Amazon.com are Our Chemical Lives And The Hijacking Of Our DNA, A Probe Into What’s Probably Making Us Sick (2009) and Lord, How Can I Make It Through Grieving My Loss, An Inspirational Guide Through the Grieving Process (2008).