fifty years ago OCTOBER 11, 1971 Archives

From the Archives (October 11, 1971): Pentagon tests with Cancer patients

Washington, Oct. 9: Senator Edward Kennedy has said that his health Sub-committee would investigate a Pentagon research work under which advanced cancer patients were being used to test the possible effects of atomic radiation on troops. He said he was “shocked and disturbed” to find that the research, at the University of Cincinanati’s College of Medicine, was going on without the patients being informed of its prime purpose. “I believe this project represents an incredible infringement of individual liberty, and establishes a dangerous precedent for the reduction of human rights in our society”, he wrote yesterday to the Defence Secretary, Mr. Melvin Laird. Mr. Kennedy asked Mr. Laird for the full report of the 11-year-old project. According to the report, first revealed in the Washington Post, the Pentagon’s defence nuclear agency has paid the university $850,000 for treating 111 patients. The patients, all with tumours on several parts of their bodies, are recruited for “whole body” doses of radiation after they have been told they can no longer be helped by surgery, drugs or selective radiation, the paper had reported. The patients were not told that the Pentagon was giving funds for their treatment, or that the main purpose of the research was to test the probable effects of radiation such as would be received on the battlefields during a nuclear explosion.

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