The Most Unethical US Government Experiments On Humans

At times, the American government has been caught conducting inhumane experiments on humans without their consent and/or knowledge. Many even involved the participation of medical professionals, who ironically became hypocrites to their Hippocratic Oath.

Many of these stories sound like conspiracy theories, but sadly, they all really happened. Some are so awful, you'll be left asking yourself, did the US government really infect its own citizens with syphilis and not tell them? Did other government agencies test nuclear weapons, resulting in radiation fallout on multiple innocent Pacific islands? And did top US officials condone the research of corrupt doctors who were allegedly torturing research subjects? Click through the list below to learn more.

  • Project MKUltra, Subproject 68 Involved Child Abuse
    Photo: Dmcdevit / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    Project MKUltra, Subproject 68 Involved Child Abuse

    The CIA-run Project MKUltra (also written MK-Ultra) paid Dr. Donald Ewen Cameron for Subproject 68, AKA experiments involving mind-altering substances. The entire goal of the project was to look into methods of influencing and controlling people's minds and extracting information from resisting minds.

    To accomplish this, the doctor took patients admitted to the Royal Victoria Hospital's Allan Memorial Institute in Montreal (mostly for issues like bipolar disorder and anxiety disorders) and conducted "therapy" on them - treatment that was life-altering and scarring.

    Between 1957 and 1964, Cameron administered electroconvulsive therapy as frequently as twice daily, as opposed to the recommended limit of three times a week. He would put patients into drug-induced comas and play back tapes of simple statements or repetitive noises over and over again.

    The victims often lost the ability to speak, forgot about their parents, and suffered serious amnesia. All of this was performed on Canadian citizens because the CIA wasn’t willing to risk such operations on Americans. To ensure funding, Cameron experimented upon admitted children, and in one situation filmed a child engaging in intimate acts with high-ranking government officials, thus securing himself a valuable bargaining chip - blackmail.

  • US Soldiers Were Involuntary Guinea Pigs For Chemical Weapon Gasses
    Photo: Willem van de Poll / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    US Soldiers Were Involuntary Guinea Pigs For Chemical Weapon Gasses

    As research on biological and chemical weapons intensified in the 1940s, American officials also began testing repercussions and defenses on the US Army itself. To determine the effectiveness of various chemicals, officials were known to have sprayed mustard gas (dichlorodiethyl sulfide) and other skin-burning, lung-destroying chemicals like lewisite on soldiers - many of whom were Black - without their consent or knowledge of the experiment. Upon contact with skin or mucous membranes, the gases can cause itching, swelling, blistering, and extreme burning pain.

    The US Government also tested the effectiveness of gas masks and protective clothing by locking soldiers in chambers and exposing them to mustard gas and lewisite, mimicking the gas chambers of Nazi Germany.

    It was also rumored that along with soldiers, Veterans Administration hospital patients may have been used as guinea pigs in experiments involving biological warfare chemicals, but that all experiment designations were changed to "observations" to ward off suspicions.

  • The US Granted Immunity To Dr. Shiro Ishii, Who Engaged In Gruesome Vivisection
    Photo: Masao Takezawa / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    As head of the Imperial Japanese Army’s Unit 731 (a covert biological and chemical warfare research and development unit during WWII), Dr. Shiro Ishii carried out gory surgeries on thousands of Chinese and Allied prisoners of war during the Second Sino-Japanese War and World War II.

    Among other things, Ishii tested vivisection techniques - experimental surgery without anesthesia on living creatures and examining their insides. As would be imagined, this causes excruciating pain and terror for patients, and often costs them their lives. Ishii was also known for forcing pregnant women to endure abortions of their babies, and subjecting his prisoners to changes in physiological conditions to induce strokes, heart attacks, frostbite, and hypothermia. He dehumanized his patients by calling them maruta, the Japanese word for "logs."

    Following imminent defeat in 1945, Japan blew up the Unit 731 complex and Ishii ordered all remaining "logs" to be executed. Soon after, he was arrested. American General Douglas MacArthur allegedly struck a deal with Ishii - if the US granted him immunity, he in turn must reveal information about his experiments and about Japanese biological warfare.

  • Secret Human Experiments Tested The Effects Of The Atomic Bomb
    Video: YouTube

    Secret Human Experiments Tested The Effects Of The Atomic Bomb

    While testing out and trying to harness the power of the atomic bomb, American scientists in the 1940s also secretly tested the bomb's effects on humans. During the Manhattan Project, which gave way to the atomic bomb that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, scientists resorted to human testing via plutonium injection on 18 unsuspecting, nonconsenting patients. Some also received uranium or polonium.

    The experiment involved injecting males and females - ranging in age from children to 50-somethings, with varying micrograms of weapons-grade plutonium. Of the patients, who were known only by their code names and numbers at the time, their causes of death were just as likely to be cardiovascular disease or pulmonary issues as cancer, which was surprising. 

  • The US Government Approved Spraying Deadly Chemicals Over American Cities

    Showing once again that the US tends to test worse-case scenarios by getting to them first, the US military and the CIA conducted a series of biochemical warfare simulations upon American cities to see how the effects would play out in the event of an actual chemical attack.

    They conducted the following campaigns, without public knowledge:

    • In 1950, the US Navy sprayed bacterial pathogens in the sky above San Francisco; it claimed the bacteria were harmless, but many people developed respiratory infections, with at least one fatal case.
    • The CIA released whooping cough virus in 1955 near Tampa, FL, using boats, and nearly caused an epidemic. Twelve people succumbed to the illness.
    • Between 1956 and 1958, the US Army unleashed millions of mosquitoes carrying the yellow fever virus in the vicinity of Savannah, GA, and Avon Park, FL. The resulting infections caused many people to suffer acute and chronic symptoms including fevers, bronchitis, encephalitis, and stillbirths. Adding insult to injury, Army personnel, posing as public health workers, arrived after each swarm to photograph, document, and test victims, after which they simply left.
  • American Physicians Infected Guatemalans With STDs

    In the 1940s, with penicillin as an established cure for syphilis, the US decided to test its effectiveness on Guatemalan citizens. To do this, American physicians in Guatemala recruited infected prostitutes to have relations with unknowing prison inmates, mental hospital patients, and soldiers. When spreading the disease through prostitution didn't work as well as they'd hoped, they instead went for a rather gruesome inoculation route.

    Researchers poured syphilis bacteria onto men's genitals, arms, and/or faces. In some cases, they even exposed the men through spinal punctures. After all the infections were transmitted, researchers then gave most of the subjects penicillin treatment, although “not everyone received what was even then considered adequate treatment,” according to Susan Reverby, a Wellesley College professor who was among the experiment's whistleblowers in 2010.

    In October of that year, Hillary Clinton apologized for the inhumane program and said new research was happening to see if anyone affected is still alive and battling syphilis. Because many subjects never received penicillin, it's possible and likely that some people spread the virus to future generations.