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“…tough lessons they have taught us about trust”

Energy Secretary Hazel O’Leary:
“Never again”

Government pays $4.8 million for experiments

Yeah, yeah, I know. This article is 14-year-old news, but I still think it’s important today with all this new-found faith today in how those in power can improve. From votethebastardsout.com. ~Editor
_________________________________________________________________

by: Verena Dobnik

Associated Press, 11-20-96 NEW YORK — The U.S. government will pay $4.8 million for injecting 12 human guinea pigs with uranium and plutonium without their knowledge as part of a Cold War-era radiation experiment. “Never again,” Energy Secretary Hazel O’Leary said in announcing the settlement Tuesday. “Never again should tests be performed on human beings.” O’Leary said $400,000 apiece will go to the families of the 11 victims who are now dead, and a women still living in upstate New York. Doctors are not sure whether ant of the 11 deaths were directly related to the experiments.

“This settlement goes to the very heart of the moral accountability the government owes its citizens,” the outgoing energy secretary said at a meeting of the American Public Health Association. Lawyers for the plaintiffs said the government has yet to compensate about 20,000 other people used for biochemical experiments in the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s . The 12 victims in the settlement were injected during the 1940s — 11 with plutonium, and one with uranium — to see how the human body would react to an atomic bombing.

The tests sprang from efforts to develop atomic weapons. At the time, scientists claimed that the people were terminally ill anyway and would not survive 10 years. But a number of them lived longer, and the plutonium is said to have caused urinary tract infections and painful osteoporosis, or thinning of the bones. Autopsies on the patients injected with plutonium revealed bones “that looked like Swiss cheese,” said Raymond Heslin, a lawyer for the plaintiffs. Nine of the victims received the injections at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester (N.Y.) as part of research project conducted by the University of Rochester and the U.S. government.

The scientists performing the experiments “had a code word for plutonium in medical records, so people couldn’t figure out that these people were injected,” said a lawyer for the plaintiffs, Leonard Marks. “It was a rotten thing to do,” said Luther Schultz, whose mother, Eda Schultz Charlton, was injected in 1945 at Strong Memorial. Charlton received a dose of radiation 43 times the amount an average person absorbs in a lifetime, but she lived another 38 years to age 85. “If people had been notified and knew what they were doing, it would be a different thing,” Schultz said. “But this was just picking people put and shooting poison into them — I’m pretty bitter about that.”

The only survivor among the 12 is Mary Jean Connell, who is now in her 70s and lives near Buffalo. Her lawyer said she had no comment.

The 12 were among thousands of people used in experiments by the U.S. government between 1944 and 1974. Last year, President Clinton appointed a panel that is now drafting a report on human radiation experiments to be released within two months. The panel’s experts have found that it was not uncommon for doctors to use patients as test subjects without their knowledge in the 1940s.

“We are grateful to the families for the tough lessons they have taught us about trust, responsibility and accountability between the government and the people,” said O’Leary, who made the issue a centerpiece of her tenure. In addition to the 12 cases, another plutonium claim was settled last summer and a few other such cases are still being negotiated.

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