The Secret History of Medical Experimentation on Children in America
The shocking truth of what really happened in American medicine during the 20th century
Influenced by the eugenics movement and under the allure of grand scientific breakthroughs, doctors and researchers tested out new medicines and medical procedures on some of America’s most vulnerable populations: institutionalized children.
Researchers in need of test subjects looked to state institutions that contained developmentally impaired children for their experiments. Fernald, Willowbrook, Pennhurst, Vineland, Sonoma State, the Ohio Sailors and Soldiers Orphan Home, and dozens of other overcrowded and understaffed institutions across the country provided a “fertile field” for medical investigators in the hunt for a new elixir to treat or prevent any number of diseases plaguing contemporary society.
Defenseless children—commonly referred to at the time as “feebleminded”—warehoused in state-run facilities were often “volunteered” as human guinea pigs for countless dangerous experiments that included: radioactive material, electric shock, LSD, and myriad vaccines. Even day-old infants were incorporated in the studies.
Though the truth can be difficult to read, it is imperative for citizens to understand what really went on in the dark side of American medical history.
What Others Are Saying
“Horrifying and painstakingly documented history … of the chilling legacy on negative eugenics - the sicking imperative to prevent the survival and reproduction of the least fit - and the push by the twentieth-century medical establishment to find cures and treatments by using children as human guinea pigs … At least now, their voices are heard.” Publishers Weekly
“A powerful, important book, which lucidly documents one of the most shameful - and frankly horrifying - chapters in American history. I hope that it will be widely read and discussed, and that as we confront this past, it will prompt us to think of this question: How are we doing today as a society when it comes to protecting and nurturing our most vulnerable children?” Robert Whitaker - author of Anatomy of an Epidemic
“The authors of Against Their Will have done an outstanding job in identifying these egregious events and critically reviewing the fascinating sociopolitical circumstances in which they occurred. This thoroughly researched, highly absorbing book will undoubtedly have a significant positive impact upon medical research in future years. A truly marvelous contribution to patient safety and human dignity by three erudite authors.” Cyril Wecht, MD - author of From Crime Scene to Courtroom.
MEDICAL / History
MEDICAL / Ethics
HISTORY / United States / 20th Century