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Human Radiation Experiments

Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments

1995, October 24

Human Radiation Experiments

On January 15, 1994, President Clinton appointed the Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments.  The President created the Committee to investigate reports of possibly unethical experiments funded by the government decades ago.

The members of the Advisory Committee were fourteen private citizens from around the country: a representative of the general public and thirteen experts in bioethics, radiation oncology and biology, nuclear medicine, epidemiology and biostatistics, public health, history of science and medicine, and law.

President Clinton asked us to deliver our recommendations to a Cabinet-level group, the Human Radiation Interagency Working Group, whose members are the Secretaries of Defense, Energy, Health and Human Services, and Veterans Affairs; the Attorney General; the Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration; the Director of Central Intelligence; and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget.  Some of the experiments the Committee was asked to investigate, and particu larly a series that included the injection of plutonium into unsus pecting hospital patients, were of special concern to Secretary of Energy Hazel O’Leary.  Her department had its origins in the federal agencies that had sponsored the plutonium experiments.  These agencies were responsible for the development of nuclear weapons and during the Cold War their activities had been shrouded in secrecy. But now the Cold War was over.

The controversy surrounding the plutonium experiments and others like them brought basic questions to the fore:  How many experiments were conducted or sponsored by the government, and why?  How many were secret?  Was anyone harmed?  What was disclosed to those subjected to risk, and what opportunity did they have for consent?  By what rules should the past be judged?  What remedies are due those who were wronged or harmed by the government in the past?  How well do federal rules that today govern human experimentation work?  What lessons can be learned for application to the future?  Our Final Report provides the details of the Committee’s answers to these questions.  This Executive Summary presents an overview of the work done by the Committee, our findings and recommendations, and the contents of the Final Report.

The above is taken from the DOE’s ACHRE Report page.

Where to Find Resource Online

The full final report (as well as other docements) is available in various digital formats:

     Internet Archive

It is also available as text on the ACHRE Report website:  Final Report

PDF Document

     Human Radiation Experiments — DOE book

Greater Context

There are additional government reports available about human radiation experiments via the following article by John Greenewald: 

     Human Radiation Experiments

Also, see the page about the book, The Plutonium Files, which also gets into details:


Filed under the following tags: government health science secret activities

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