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.

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  • 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.

  • Operation Paperclip Forced German Scientists To Work For/In The US
    Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 141-1880 / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0 DE

    Following WWII, the American government covertly instituted Operation Paperclip, a program of the Joint Intelligence Objectives Agency and Office of Strategic Services in which approximately 1,600 German scientists and engineers (and their families) from Nazi Germany and other foreign countries were brought to the US for employment.

    This took place in part to keep German scientific expertise and knowledge from the Soviet Union and to keep post-war Germany from redeveloping its military research capabilities. The US government "bleached" the scientists of their Nazi ties, removing and/or destroying any documents or records tying them to the party.

    Any Germans had special skills or knowledge were taken to detention centers, to be held and interrogated. Some were then driven to countryside towns without actual research facilities; they received stipends to purchase necessities, but also received orders to check in at police headquarters twice weekly, ostensibly to prevent them from trying to leave. A US Joint Chiefs of Staff directive stated they should only be released "after all interested agencies were satisfied that all desired intelligence information had been obtained from them."

  • American Prison Inmates Were Agent Orange Guinea Pigs

    With funding he received from the US Army and the Dow chemical company (main producer of Agent Orange), Dr. Albert Kligman used prisoners at Pennsylvania's Holmesburg Prison as subjects in what was deemed “dermatological research.” The dermatology aspect was testing the effects of Agent Orange (a highly toxic dioxin plus two forms of acetic acid) on human skin. 

    Kligman injected dioxin into non-consenting prisoners to study its effects, which included severe, disfiguring skin lesions as well as respiratory issues. He allegedly exposed his subjects to more than 400 times the “recommended safe dosage” of the chemical. His documentation, if any, has never come to light. He did, however, describe a goal of “learn[ing] how the skin protects itself against chronic assault from toxic chemicals, the so-called hardening process.”

    He even described his excitement when presented with his incarcerated test subjects from Holmesburg: 

    All I saw before me were acres of skin… It was like a farmer seeing a fertile field for the first time.