Throughout its long history, the medical field has had many breakthroughs that saved and continued to save lives. Experiments enabled scientists to understand and test scientific principles that underlie medical discoveries. This helped them to create drugs that will cure diseases or even to create inventions for medical purposes. However, scientists sometimes let the hope of a breakthrough get in the way of ethics. We are often presented with the benefits of these medical discoveries without shedding light on how human lives were damaged in the name of science.
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Japan’s Unit 731
The Japanese Imperial Army not only conducted biological warfare but also medical testing on civilians throughout the 1930s and 1940s. Most of these people were Chinese. Reports showed that the Japanese infected wells in China with cholera and typhoid and plague-carrying fleas. They made Chinese prisoners march in freezing weather to figure out the best treatment for frostbite. Also, some of the victims were dissected while alive and conscious, put in pressure chambers until their eyes popped out, and dosed with poison gas. Although there are no official numbers in these brutal experiments, it was believed that as many as 200,000 died.
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Designed and conducted by the US Central Intelligence Agency, Project MKUltra consisted of human experiments that aimed to identify and develop drugs and procedures to be used in interrogations and torture. This is often referred to as the CIA's mind control program since they weaken an individual to force confessions through mind control. According to OneDio, an online site that features interesting content, MKUltra used numerous methodologies to manipulate people's mental states and alter brain functions. This included verbal and sexual abuse, isolation, sensory deprivation, hypnosis, and more.
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The Aversion Project
Homosexuality was widely believed to be a disease. Many doctors tried to find a “cure” for this, including Dr. Aubrey Levin, an army colonel and psychologist. In 1969, Levin used electroconvulsive aversion therapy to “reorientate” thousands of homosexuals. Electrodes were strapped to a patient’s upper arm with wires running to a dial calibrated from 1 to 10. Patients were given photos of men to fantasize then they will be subjected to severe shocks.
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Stanford Prison Experiment
Humans are naturally good people. Some scientists wondered what will happen if good individuals were put in evil situations. In 1971, Philip Zimbardo set up a prison and paid college students to play guards and prisoners. He made the guards treat the prisoners awfully. They humiliated them by stripping them naked and spraying their bodies with delousing chemicals. The guards also harassed and intimidated the prisoners. According to Live Science, a science news website that features groundbreaking developments in science, space, technology, health, the environment, our culture, and history, the two-week experiment was shut down after only six days because things turned chaotic. "In only a few days, our guards became sadistic and our prisoners became depressed and showed signs of extreme stress," Zimbardo wrote on his website.
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The CIA had another infamous experiment that involved humans. This experiment was created in 1954 to study Chinese brainwashing techniques, at the same time, to develop effective methods of interrogation. Led by the Cornell University Medical School's human ecology study programs, the experiment gathered, collated, and analyzed information on imprisonment, deprivation, humiliation, torture, brainwashing, hypnoses, and more. Then they formulated a plan to develop secret drugs and various brain damaging procedures.
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Human Experimentation in the Soviet Union
The Soviet Union had many research facilities that later turned into poison laboratories known as Laboratory 1, Laboratory 12, and Kameral. From 1921 to the 21st century, they let prisoners in those laboratories be exposed to several deadly poisons, including mustard gas, ricin, digitoxin, and curare, among others. According to Best Psychology Degrees, an online resource for gathering the latest up-to-date information about psychology degree programs in as many areas of concentration as possible, this experiment aimed to find a tasteless, odorless chemical that could not be detected post mortem.
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Surgical Experiments on Slaves
J. Marion Sims, the father of modern gynecology, became infamous for doing experimental surgeries on slave black women. Durrenda Ojanuga, a social work professor from the University of Alabama, wrote in the Journal of Medical Ethics in 1993 that Sims "manipulated the social institution of slavery to perform human experimentations, which by any standard is unacceptable." Sims did experiments involving vesicovaginal fistula, which caused extreme suffering on the women. The condition was usually a result of childbirth that put a tear between the vagina and bladder. This caused the women to have insufficient voluntary control over their urination or defecation. Sims perfected his surgery on the condition by operating on slave black women without anesthesia.