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Citizen Exploitation Isn’t New


Recent news that the U.S. government subjected as many as 800 people to radiation as part of an experimental program during the Cold War era, and Energy Secretary Hazel R. O’Leary’s acknowledgment and recommendation of compensation for the victims is cause for deep concern and is also a symptom of a far wider and deeper sickness infesting the U.S. government.

The details from The Washington Post are sickening to Americans who value the sentiments in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

Radiation tests were conducted on 30 mentally retarded teenagers. These unfortunate victims were fed radiation-enriched cereal. Other victims of these tests were injected with plutonium, one of the most dangerous carcinogens known to medical science. What is also disturbing is that while many Americans reacted with horror and shock, they also reacted as if this recent disclosure was an isolated case of government misconduct.

The U.S. government has routinely subjected Americans to medical experiments. This has been done without the victims’ knowledge or consent. The U.S. Department of Health and the Alabama State Health Department ran the infamous Tuskegee experiment. The experiment started around 1932 and didn’t end until 1972.

A group of poor black Alabamians had a positive diagnosis for syphilis. The medical authorities, instead of treating the disease, let the disease run its course. The victims were carefully researched from detection to autopsy.

What started as a racially motivated experiment on black citizens in the United States ended up as a bureaucratic nightmare for the victims. Many doctors from various backgrounds in the United States were involved in the experiment. The contempt for these victims is well documented in the histories of the experiment. Governments at all levels are increasingly contemptuous of the sacred rights of each individual person.

Another more recent example of medical experimentation condoned by even the U.S. Supreme Court is described in the case “United States, et al. v. James B. Stanley.” In 1958, James B. Stanley was administered LSD by the Army without his knowledge or consent. The drug induced personality changes which resulted in his discharge from the military and the dissolution of his marriage.

When Stanley discovered what the U.S. government did to him, he sued and the case was eventually brought to the Supreme Court. Believe it or not, the High Court ruled in favor of the government in 1987. When government officials tell people to “say no to drugs,” perhaps they should also say, “Leave that to us.”

The events described in this article could be multiplied many times. They are symptoms of a far wider and deeper evil. It is common for U.S. government officials to treat the citizens as objects instead of individuals having inherent worth.

Too many Americans and government officials have never learned or have forgotten the sacredness of human life. These experiments are conducted on the same evil premises that motivated the terrible human experimentation conducted in Nazi Germany. Those who are advocating a national health system should reevaluate their ideas and wonder what safeguards, if any, are to be imposed to protect future victims from unwanted experimentation.

In conclusion, Americans must evaluate these evil experiments in the light of the Declaration of Independence. In that document, each individual is regarded as having “unalienable rights” in his person, liberty, and pursuits. Yet, the prevailing ideological sentiments in the United States are very much against individual rights.

These incidents of human experimentation should cause each of us deep concern. Americans need to soberly evaluate the ideas and sentiments that went into the founding of this nation.

This article originally appeared in the January 6, 1994, issue of The Monroeville Journal . Reprinted by permission.

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    Mr. Egolf is a schoolteacher in Monroeville, Alabama.