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There have been numerous experiments performed on human test subjects in the United States that have been considered unethical, and were often performed illegally, without the knowledge, consent, or informed consent of the test subjects.
Many types of experiments have been performed including the deliberate infection of people with deadly or debilitating diseases, exposure of people to biological and chemical weapons, human radiation experiments, injection of people with toxic and radioactive chemicals, surgical experiments, interrogation/torture experiments, tests involving mind-altering substances, and a wide variety of others. Many of these tests were performed on children and mentally disabled individuals. In many of the studies, a large portion of the subjects were poor racial minorities or prisoners. Often, subjects were sick or disabled people, whose doctors told them that they were receiving "medical treatment", but instead were used as the subjects of harmful and deadly experiments.
Many of these experiments were funded by the United States government, especially the Central Intelligence Agency, United States military and federal or military corporations. The human research programs were usually highly secretive, and in many cases information about them was not released until many years after the studies had been performed.
The ethical, professional, and legal implications of this in the United States medical and scientific community were quite significant, and led to many institutions and policies that attempted to ensure that future human subject research in the United States would be ethical and legal. Public outcry over the discovery of government experiments on human subjects led to numerous congressional investigations and hearings, including the Church Committee, Rockefeller Commission, and Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments, amongst others.
In 1950, the CIA initiated Project Bluebird, later renamed Project Artichoke, whose stated purpose was to develop "the means to control individuals through special interrogation techniques", "way[s] to prevent the extraction of information from CIA agents", and "offensive uses of unconventional techniques, such as hypnosis and drugs." The purpose of the project was outlined in a memo dated January 1952 that stated, "Can we get control of an individual to the point where he will do our bidding against his will and even against fundamental laws of nature, such as self preservation?" The project studied the use of hypnosis, forced morphine addiction and subsequent forced withdrawal, and the use of other chemicals, among other methods, to produce amnesia and other vulnerable states in subjects. In order to "perfect techniques for the abstraction of information from individuals, whether willing or not", Project Bluebird researchers experimented with a wide variety of psychoactive substances, including LSD, heroin, marijuana, cocaine, PCP, mescaline, and ether. Project Bluebird researchers dosed over 7,000 U.S. military personnel with LSD, without their knowledge or consent, at the Edgewood Arsenal in Maryland. More than 1,000 of these soldiers suffered from several psychiatric illnesses, including depression and epilepsy, as a result of the tests. Many of them tried to commit suicide.
In 1952, professional tennis player Harold Blauer died when injected with a fatal dose of a mescaline derivative at the New York State Psychiatric Institute of Columbia University, by Dr. James Cattell. The United States Department of Defense, which sponsored the injection, worked in collusion with the Department of Justice, and the New York State Attorney General to conceal evidence of its involvement for 23 years. Cattell claimed that he did not know what the army had given him to inject into Blauer, saying: "We didn't know whether it was dog piss or what we were giving him."
In 1953, the CIA placed several of its interrogation and mind-control programs under the direction of a single program, known by the code name MKULTRA, after CIA director Allen Dulles complained about not having enough "human guinea pigs to try these extraordinary techniques." The MKULTRA project was under the direct command of Dr. Sidney Gottlieb of the Technical Services Division. The project received over $25 million, and involved hundreds of experiments on human subjects at eighty different institutions.
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