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Originally published March 7 2006

Human medical experimentation in modern times: Silencing the victims (part three)

by Dani Veracity

Even though it is openly denying any wrongdoing, New York City's ACS (Administration for Children's Services) deserves some credit for taking the effort to investigate its past involvement in medical experimentation on humans and contracting the Vera Institute of Justice to conduct an independent review. IG Farben "daughter" companies like modern Bayer, though openly denying connection to IG Farben's war crimes, have also made an effort to help human medical experiment victims. These companies have worked with the German government to set up a compensation fund for those Holocaust survivors who lived through the gruesome medical experiments to which they were subjected by their captors.

According to a Bayer spokesperson who was quoted in Handscomb's It's My Story, "The company's contribution to this fund amounted to more than £40 million (over $70 million)." On the other hand, as Handscomb points out, some Holocaust victims have had to campaign to receive money from this fund for decades. Palmer, for example, fought to receive compensation for 28 years, yet received nothing from authorities until her story received media attention. As Handscomb writes, "Within weeks of the authorities being contacted by the BBC, Zoe received a check for a little over £2,000 (approximately $3,500) from the German compensation fund."

In contrast to both ACS and Bayer, SFBC is both failing to acknowledge wrongdoing and trying to silence test subjects. According to a Nov. 20 Seattle Times article by original Bloomberg drug experiment exposé authors Evans and Michael Smith, SFBC threatened three of the experimental drug test subjects they interviewed for their Bloomberg series. According to the threatened participants who now wish to remain anonymous, shortly after the Bloomberg articles were published, SFBC placed them in separate rooms with SFBC officials, including Chief Executive Arnold Hantman. While keeping them confined, Hantman used profanity and told the foreign-born participants that he would call the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and have them deported if they didn't agree to sign statements saying that the Bloomberg reporters who had interviewed them hadn't clearly said they would publish an article or use their photographs, thus undermining the credibility of the Bloomberg exposés. Though they signed the statements, the test subjects told Smith and Evans that they only did so out of fear of getting arrested and deported, and that they would be willing to tell their story to U.S. Senate investigators.

SFBC denies the information revealed in the Bloomberg articles "Drug Industry Human Testing Masks Death, Injury, Compliant FDA" and "Miami Test Center Lures Poor Immigrants as Human Guinea Pigs". In a conference call, SFBC President Lisa Krinsky said of the articles, "Approximately 99 percent of the information that was documented regarding SFBC is a total fabrication, and the remaining one percent was entirely misquoted."

If SFBC officials in fact threatened the test study participants, it is injustice upon injustice. As Arthur Caplan, director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, explained in the Seattle Times article, "It's clearly beyond the pale to bully and coerce people because they reported ethical violations. It's simply heinous to try and cover up misdeeds with these actions."

On this note, though human medical experimentation is a valuable part of science, its ethics are questionable at best. For this reason, it is important for the Office for Human Research Protections, organizations like the Vera Institute of Justice and human rights activist groups to make sure that test subjects are not being exploited, especially when these subjects include children, immigrants, poor people and other groups that are especially susceptible to exploitation. Humanity and the public good should always be given priority over profit.

See the comparison chart: Human medical experiments, Nazi Germany / modern medicine

Or see the Human Medical Experimentation Timeline






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