JF Ptak Science Books 1073
Medical and scientific experimentation on humans has a long and painful history. In the early days it seemed much more acceptable to perform tests on people while they were alive more so than to cut up and autopsy their bodies when they were dead.
Then of course three’s the other side of the coin: the STD experimentation in the infamous Tuskegee case (1932), the widespread studies of the U.S. Army’s Chemical Warfare Service, the Cornell Medical School’s wincingly bad study that gave the name to the placebo effect, th e1942 Chicago malaria studies on inmates, the long series of atomic and nuclear weapons tests with passive involvement of sailors and soldiers, and on and on, back into dim history. (The experiments by the Nazi doctors and their Japanese Unit 731 counterparts deserve their own categories.)
This photo from Life magazine on the story (“Conscientious Eaters of an Atomic Diet”) of 1955 must be among the most wholesome general cover stories in the history of the idea of human experimentation. These young conscientious objectors2 declared (for whatever reason, ethic, moral or religious) their inability to serve in the armed forces, and were sent to a different task to replace military service. Their exchange would be to test the effects of nuclear radiation on food products. (This was the process of using radiation to kill bacteria and insects and whatever other living badie in food that might cause disease or illness of cause the food to spoil. The long-term result for the military could be enormous, allowing for more inexpensive and less difficult ways to keep food for longer periods of time for troops, and could also keep troops healthier by eliminating certain food-borne illness that could spread from one person to another.)
Still, what was being asked of these young men was far beyond the "debt" implied by their CO status. The effects of this sort of exposure were still not well known, and these men were absolutely being place in harm's way, and for the cameras of Life. The ideas of “Radiation sickness” and “Acute Radiation Syndrome”--created by the two atomic bombs detonated in Japan in August 1945--were only about ten years old at the point where these young men were licking the irradiated grease form their plates. (As a matter of fact there was no immediate medical research team in place to study the biological effects of the bombs in those two cities; after a few weeks and by the end of August there was a organization in place, headed by Colonel Ashly Oughterson.) These men weren't going to suffer any radiation poisoning from the process (the ionizing radiation used by irradiators "was not strong enough to disintegrate the nucleus of even one atom of a food molecule") , but the effects of irradiating food at this point were still not known.Notes:
1. Published in his 1838 Experiments and Observations on the Gastric Juice, and the Physiology of Digestion.
2. The business of conscientious objection to military service is milennia old; in the United States it goes back easily to the Revolutionary War. It becomes a little less defined in the Civil War, where a CO or anyone else faced with military service could purchase a stay of service for $300 or provide someone in his place. (In the CSA the same could be done but for a little more–$500.) The whole business got considerably tightened up by WWI, and in WWII–when there was a spike in declarations by Cos–the code for declaration of objection to military service was considerably clarified, though not making it any less painful experience for the CO to endure. In 1948 the worldwide issue of the right to “conscience” was addressed by the United Nations General Assembly in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, part of which reads: “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom...”
During WWII the CO declaration form/questionnaire DSS 47 asked these ten questions:
1. Describe the nature of your belief which is the basis of your claim.
2. Explain how, when, and from whom or from what source you received the training and acquired the belief which is the basis of your claim.
3. Give the name and present address of the individual upon whom you rely most for religious guidance.
4. Under what circumstances, if any, do you believe in the use of force?
5. Describe the actions and behavior in your life which in your opinion most conspicuously demonstrate the consistency and depth of your religious convictions.
6. Have you ever given public expression, written or oral, to the views herein expressed as the basis for your claim made above? If so, specify when and where.
7. Have you ever been a member of any military organization or establishment? If so, state the name and address of same and give reasons why you became a member.
8. Are you a member of a religious sect or organization?
9. Describe carefully the creed or official statements of said religious sect or organization as it relates to participation in war.
10. Describe your relationships with and activities in all organizations with which you are or have been affiliated other than religious or military.
For human experimentation, see also:
Hoerni B. [Medical ethics. Evolution century after century] Hist Sci Med. 2003 Jul-Sep;37(3):331-8.
Lyon J. Experimenting with humans. Part I: History and context. Second Opin. 1987;6:63-89
Numbers RL. William Beaumont and the ethics of human experimentation. J Hist Biol. 1979 Spring;12(1):113-35.
For more on radiation studies at Hiroshima and Nagasaki:
Archives: Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission. Issues in Science and Technology. Spring 1997. FindArticles.com. 21 Apr. 2008. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3622/is_199704/ai_n8759128.
Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. (2008, Apr 19). In Wikipedia,
The Free Encyclopedia. 21 Apr. 2008.
ABCC Collection at John P.
McGovern Historical Collections and Research Center (Houston
Academy of Medicine-Texas Medical Center Library).
Radiation Effects Research Foundation Home website in English and Japanese