Everyone is a Test Subject: Human Experimentation in America


This article details the various atrocities that were committed by American doctors against many different people, including the mentally ill, those with a debilitating illness and those in prison.  These groups of people were also often predominantly people of color, either that lived in the United States or in other countries.  The article begin by detailing various experiments done on humans in the United States, starting back 80 years.  Most involved not getting consent from their test subjects, performing harmful “treatments” and even refusing to treat a disease in certain test subjects in order to see the disease take its full course.  These different experiments were never publicized in the media, but whenever news of a study did break, the doctors covered it up by explaining how it created medical advances.  In fact, the doctors that completed this research were unashamed of their work, publishing their findings in journal articles.

This article perfectly incapacitates the injustices faced by marginalized people in the United States, and how their doctors, people that had taken an oath to do no harm, had utterly and completely betrayed them.  The doctors completing these experiments only saw these people as test subjects that would improve medicine for wealthy Americans.  This is similar to many of the common themes of the class, where individuals in a position of power take advantage of people in order to create advances in the science that these marginalized people will never get to see.

I also think that these examples also show how media can color people’s perceptions of these barbaric acts.  The media never covered any of these experiments and when they did, they only looked at it from the doctors point of view.  All other opinions and thoughts were excluded from the narrative.  This prevented the general public from seeing all the horrors that were being committed in the name of science.  This also forced marginalized people to seek other forms of medicine, as it was clear the traditional, Western medicine and its practitioners could not be trusted.

One thought on “Everyone is a Test Subject: Human Experimentation in America”

  1. This article reminds me of our discussion on human experimentation in our first unit. The pattern of doctors shrouding the fact that they conducted human experimentation under the cloak of the benefits of their research is reminiscent of the way the Dr. J Marion Sims is still lauded in history for his surgical achievements as a result of his experimentation on African enslaved women. I remember one of the questions that plagued me during the unit was how do we as a society address these occurrences and the research gained from them from a moral and validity perspective? Can we still accept the validity of these doctors’research knowing the methods by which they came into possession of it?

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