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Famous Studies On Humans That Would Never Be Allowed Today
[Image via Fact Republic]

Forced Sexual Reassignment

  • Year(s) Conducted: 1965 to 2003
  • Parties Involved: Jon Money

In 1965, David Peter Reimer was born as a biological male. At just seven months old, the young boy’s penis was tragically destroyed. It happened by accident during an unconventional circumcision by cauterization, which even at the time was not recommended. A Psychologist named John Money felt that gender was learned. He convinced David’s parents that their son would have a successful, functional sexual maturation as a girl rather than a boy. Money reported success over the years.

Famous Studies On Humans That Would Never Be Allowed Today
[Image via Nito/Shutterstock.com]
However, this was by no means the truth. David’s own account of the issue was very different. He claimed to NEVER identify as a female, nor did he feel he’d ever be one. During his childhood, he was teased, not included in many groups, and developed serious depression. This depression is likely what led him to commit suicide at just 38 years old. Studies on humans like this are terrible for numerous reasons. The biggest being that one cannot be “forced” into a gender identity that differs from their biological sex. It needs to be something THEY decide upon themselves.

Famous Studies On Humans That Would Never Be Allowed Today
[Image via ABC News]

The Guatemalan Syphilis Experiment

  • Year(s) Conducted: 1946 to 1948
  • Parties Involved: U.S. Government, Guatemalan President Juan José Arévalo, & Some Guatemalan Health Ministries

In one of the worst studies on humans that the United States Government has ever been involved in, we give you the Guatemalan Syphilis Experiment. It was no just America involved here. In fact, the then-President of Guatemala, Juan José Arévalo & some of the Health Ministries in the country were also involved. During the experiments, which went from 1946 to 1948, doctors intentionally infected soldiers, prostitutes, prisoners, and even mental patients with Syphilis.

Famous Studies On Humans That Would Never Be Allowed Today
[Image via Film at Lincoln Center]
Yet they did not stop there, they also gave them other sexually transmitted diseases too. The idea was that they would be able to track how these diseases affected those they infected. However, none knew they were given the infections by doctors at the time. Plus, they were only treated with antibiotics of that period, and the experiment led to a documented 30 deaths with others believed to have happened. In 2010, the U.S. Government apologized for its role in this, but it’s truly not enough.

Famous Studies On Humans That Would Never Be Allowed Today
[Image via Piscine26/Shutterstock.com]

The Bystander Effect

  • Year Conducted: 1964
  • Parties Involved: John Darley & Bibb Latané

The Bystander Effect was technically a good idea for an experiment but had several problems with it. This is one of the studies on humans that grew in popularity due to the controversial results. In fact, an American TV Show called The Office actually did a parody of this very experiment. In 1964, psychologists & researchers John Darley & Bibb Latané wanted to test if people were willing to help victims based on the number of people involved. For the first test, a person was left alone in an office setting with harmless smoke vapor entering through the vents.

Famous Studies On Humans That Would Never Be Allowed Today
[Image via Stephan P. McMahon & Company Cape Cod]
For the second test, a group of people would be left in the office while the same smoke came through. The study found that the individuals moved quicker and were more likely to report the smoke than groups. The researchers even kicked the testing up a notch by hiring an actor to fake a seizure to test the response time of participants. The study was controversial due to the psychological issues and mental scaring it did to participants. Obviously, they were put in a panic-filled environment, unaware of what they were entering.

Famous Studies On Humans That Would Never Be Allowed Today
[Image via All That’s Interesting]

Unit 731

  • Year(s) Conducted: 1937 to 1945
  • Parties Involved: Imperial Japanese Army & Japanese Government

The Japanese Government along with its Imperial Army developed a covert biological & chemical warfare research experiment referred to as Unit 731. This experiment was technically not just “one” experiment but SEVERAL. It is also one of the most infamous war crimes in human history. From 1937 to 1945, they used both Chinese & Russian subjects. This included adult men and women, but also children, infants, and even the elderly. Moreover, some of the women were also pregnant!

Famous Studies On Humans That Would Never Be Allowed Today
[Image via Flickr]
A few of the experiments involved surgically removing organs from a live body. Limbs were amputated to study blood loss. On top of this, prisoners had their entire stomach removed, with their esophagus removed and then attached to their intestines. It became even worse, as they also tested germ warfare and weapons on some. Most of the scientists involved in these experiments went on to have prominent careers in the Japanese Government, Academics, & Medicine.

Famous Studies On Humans That Would Never Be Allowed Today
[Image via SavvyMom]

The Lost In The Mall Technique

  • Year Conducted: 1995
  • Parties Involved: Dr. Elizabeth Loftus

Psychologist Dr. Elizabeth Loftus was the architect of the “Lost in the Mall Technique.” She successfully proved how false memories can be planted in someone’s brain. During the 1990s, she tested her concept on 24 participants. She told them all short narratives describing childhood events. Each was told 4 different stories and claimed each one had been verified by their family members. However, three were true stories while one was false.

Famous Studies On Humans That Would Never Be Allowed Today
[Image via TED]
The false story involved how a participant had been lost in a shopping mall for several hours. Loftus is a highly respected professor at the University of California, Irvine. Her work in psychology throughout her career is still discussed in psychology courses. However, studies on humans like this are naturally controversial for many reasons. Her psychology peers claim that exposing people to a traumatizing event that never happened was unnecessary and a form of psychological torture.

Famous Studies On Humans That Would Never Be Allowed Today
[Image via The Telegraph]

Soviet Union Poison Experiment

  • Year Conducted: 1921 to 1970s (reactivated in 1990s)
  • Parties Involved: The Soviet Union & Russian Governments

The Soviet Union is not going to be remembered by history as amazing. In fact, they will go down most likely as terrible, especially due to how they treated their people. One such example of mistreatment is the now infamous Soviet Union Poison Experiment. Starting in 1921, the government employed poison laboratories known as Laboratory 1, Laboratory 12, and Kamera. They operated as covert research facilities that performed tests on prisoners from the Gulags.

Famous Studies On Humans That Would Never Be Allowed Today
[Image via The Washington Post]
The prisoners were exposed to several deadly poisons. Of course, these experiments were done to find a tasteless, odorless chemical that could not be detected postmortem. Among the poisons used includes mustard gas, ricin, digitoxin, curare, and many more. The Soviets even decided to test people outside prisons. Thus, men and women of multiple ages and physical conditions being brought into labs to be given poison. They told them was medication, a meal, or a drink. Dozens died.

Famous Studies On Humans That Would Never Be Allowed Today
[Image via Neonatology on the Web]

University Of California Newborn Experiments

  • Year(s) Conducted: 1960s
  • Parties Involved: University of California

While testing on children is pretty bad to do, one would assume that you would have some limitations on testing. Well, not if you spoke to researchers from the University of California in the 1960s. Known today mostly as the Newborns Experiment, the university decided to study several blood-related issues using infants. They used exactly 113 newborns ranging from just one hour to three days old!

Famous Studies On Humans That Would Never Be Allowed Today
[Image via Time Magazine]
During one experiment, a catheter was inserted through the umbilical arteries and into the aorta. Some newborns had their feet submerged in ice water to test aortic pressure. Possibly one of the worst was when they strapped 50 newborns onto a circumcision board. They would then tilt the table so that blood rushed to their head in an effort to test blood pressure. Most if not all of this could have been massively harmful to any child. Even some mothers did not even know about the experiments.

Famous Studies On Humans That Would Never Be Allowed Today
[Image via Medium]

Operation Midnight Climax

  • Year Conducted: 1955 to 1965
  • Parties Involved: U.S. Central Intelligence Agency

The United States Government has been obsessed with finding a way to perform mind control for literally decades. They tested out some form of this from the 1920s to at least the 1990s. However, some of their studies on this remained top secret for a long time. One of the most infamous on their list of studies on humans is known as Operation Midnight Climax. The study was given its nickname due to how the CIA lured in participants. Seriously, the CIA used prostitutes to lure in unsuspecting men in both San Francisco & New York City.

Famous Studies On Humans That Would Never Be Allowed Today
[Image via iMDb]
No one consented to the experiments. The most common experiment was giving LSD or other mind-altering drugs to people to see how it affected them. They might have one person in the room with them, but there was always one or more people behind one-way glass used to monitor the person. Of course, Operation Midnight Climax did not result in mind-control. Yet it did involve sexual blackmail, surveillance technology, and giving people drugs that could affect their brains. Naturally, all of this was illegal even then.

Famous Studies On Humans That Would Never Be Allowed Today
[Image via History.com]

Tuskegee Syphilis Study

  • Year(s) Conducted: 1932 to 1972
  • Parties Involved: United States Government, Tuskegee Institute

The U.S. Government has already proven it is willing to use its own people to do some horrific things. Yet one stands out above them all. In fact, the United Nations claims it is a human rights violation. Studies on humans can be controversial, but this specific study led to the nationwide outbreak of a very dangerous disease. Beginning in 1932, the U.S. Public Health Service began working with the Tuskegee Institute to track the natural progression of syphilis. They decided to go to Macon County, Alabama, where they were able to find 600 poor, illiterate, male sharecroppers (all being black).

Famous Studies On Humans That Would Never Be Allowed Today
[Image via New York Times]
Of the 600 men they found, 399 had previously contracted syphilis. However, none were told they had it. Instead, they were told they would be getting free healthcare, meals, and even burial insurance for participating in this unknown study. Even when we found that penicillin was a cure for syphilis in 1947, the Health Service continued their study up to 1972 on these men. Unsurprisingly, many of their wives contracted the disease and several of their children were born with congenital syphilis. It is by far the worst thing (outside of slavery & war) that we’ve ever done to our own people.

Famous Studies On Humans That Would Never Be Allowed Today
[Image via United States Holocaust Memorial Museum]

The Nazi Concentration Camp Experiments

  • Year(s) Conducted: 1933 to 1945
  • Parties Involved: Nazi-German Government

We all know by now how horrific the Holocaust was. It led to the deaths of over 6 million Jewish people in Germany between the 1930s to around the mid-1940s. Jewish people were often rounded up and thrown into “concentration camps” where several were simply killed. Yet one might say they were the lucky ones because some camps decided to keep Jewish men, women, and children alive. Why? Well, to do medical experiments on them obviously!

Famous Studies On Humans That Would Never Be Allowed Today
[Image via WNYZ]
Among the experiments included forcing them to drink seawater as they found a way to make it drinkable. Yet some involved throwing Jews out of planes to see the distance one could parachute to safety. Meanwhile, some were forced into freezing conditions to test hypothermia symptoms. The Nazis also forced tested poisons on people, as well as conducted bone-grafting surgeries on some. However, others were given life-threatening diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria, and infectious hepatitis as a way to develop vaccines. Sadly, we only covered about 3% of the total experiments conducted.



New York Times

New York Post

The Guardian

New York Daily News


Research Gate

National Institutes of Health

American Central Intelligence Agency

Center for Disease Control

Marquette University

Stanford University




United States Holocaust Memorial Museum