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EducationBy Joe Burgett -

Times When Governments Conducted Experiments On Their Own People
[Image via Newsweek]

Mustard Gas Experiments

  • Year(s) Conducted: 1940s
  • Nation Involved: The United States of America

At some point in 1943, the United States Navy decided it wanted to expose its sailors to mustard gas. The official experiment was supposed to test the effectiveness of new clothing and gas masks. Since the gas was so damaging during World War I, it made sense to want to find ways to battle it. This led them to conduct experiments at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington. The Navy recruited thousands of 17 & 18-year-old boys that were all roughly eight weeks into boot camp.

Times When Governments Conducted Experiments On Their Own People
[Image via Nick Beer/Shutterstock.com]
They were told that they needed people to help with experiments that could help them shorten the war. The boys jumped at the chance to help their country. When governments conducted experiments on their own people, as we know, there is always a catch. Only once the boys arrived at the Research Lab, they were told it would involve mustard gas. But they could not get out of the experiment now. Pretty much all of them suffered severe external and internal burns, which were ignored by the Navy. They even threatened some with the Espionage Act, which the nation used to punish spies, terrorists, etc.

Times When Governments Conducted Experiments On Their Own People
[Image via History.com]

Tuskegee Syphilis Study

  • Year(s) Conducted: 1932 to 1972
  • Nation Involved: The United States of America

Possibly the worst thing we ever did to our own people outside of slavery & war has to be the Tuskegee Syphilis Study. For this study, which began in 1932, the U.S. Public Health Service began working with the Tuskegee Institute. They wanted to try to find a way to curb the effects of Syphilis. Yet they also wanted to track the progression of the disease to better understand it too. To do this, they went to Macon County, Alabama, and decided to pick 600 poor, illiterate, black male sharecroppers. 399 of them had previously contracted syphilis. However, they did not know they had it.

Times When Governments Conducted Experiments On Their Own People
[Image via New York Times]
The government doctors did not tell them they had it either. However, they did promise them free healthcare, meals, and even burial insurance if they participated in their study. Being poor, this was life-changing for them. Even when we found that Penicillin could cure the illness, the government did not alert them of their syphilis diagnosis. In fact, they followed these men (even as many were dying), up to 1972 before the study was ended. Due to the lack of knowledge, many of the men’s wives caught the disease and their children were often born with congenital syphilis. It even led to a rise in the disease nationwide!

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