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Doctors and psychologists are often seen as the trusted pillars of society. Everywhere in the world, the medical community will behave in a correspondingly ethical and humane manner.

But there have been many such instances where the well-educated individuals not only ignored medical ethics but they also seemed intent on devising experiments to inflict a maximum amount of pain, suffering, permanent injury, or even death.

Experiments on Twins at Auschwitz By Angel of Death

Josef Mengele, also known as the Angel of Death got his name for his actions at the Auschwitz concentration camp, where he performed deadly experiments on prisoners. He was also the member of the team of doctors who selected that which victim to kill in the gas chambers, and also in the team of doctors who administered the gas.

Richard Baer, Josef Mengele and Rudolf Höss at Auschwitz, 1944.
Richard Baer, Josef Mengele and Rudolf Höss at Auschwitz, 1944. 

Mengele used Auschwitz and an opportunity to continue his anthropological studies and research into heredity, using inmates for human experimentation. He showed no consideration for the safety, health, physical, and emotional suffering of the victims.

He was interested in identical twins, people with heterochromia iridum(eyes with different colors), dwarfs, and people with physical abnormalities.

The twins were subjected to weekly examinations and measurements of their physical attributes by Mengele or one of his assistants. The experiments he conducted on twins included – unnecessary amputation of limbs, intentional infection on twin with typhus or some other disease, and transfusing the blood of one twin onto another twin. As a result, many of the victims died undergoing their procedures.

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Those who survived the experiments were sometimes killed and their bodies were dissected once Mengele had no use for them.

Mengele himself killed fourteen twins in one night by injecting their heart with chloroform. If one twin died from disease, he would kill the other twin for research purposes.

"Selection" of Hungarian Jews on the ramp at Birkenau, May/June 1944
“Selection” of Hungarian Jews on the ramp at Birkenau, May/June 1944

An inmate doctor said of Mengele:

He was capable of being so kind to the children, to have them become fond of him, to bring them sugar, to think of small details in their daily lives, and to do things we would genuinely admire … And then, next to that, … the crematoria smoke, and these children, tomorrow or in a half-hour, he is going to send them there. Well, that is where the anomaly lay

He was very obsessed with blue eyes, and for his desire to change children’s eye color, he injected chemicals into their eyes, and he killed people with heterochromatic eyes so that the eyes could be removed and sent to Berlin for study.

He also conducted experiments on Dwarfs and people with abnormalities, which included taking physical measurements, drawing blood, extracting healthy teeth, and treatment with unnecessary drugs and X-rays. Most of victims were dispatched to the gas chambers after two weeks, and their skeletons were sent to Berlin for further studies.

One survivor described how he didn’t saw his brother after his fourth operation.

Jewish twins kept alive in Auschwitz for use in Mengele's medical experiments. The Red Army liberated these children in January 1945
Jewish twins kept alive in Auschwitz for use in Mengele’s medical experiments. The Red Army liberated these children in January 1945

One day, my twin brother, Tibi, was taken away for some special experiments. Dr. Mengele had always been more interested in Tibi. I am not sure why – perhaps because he was the older twin. Mengele made several operations on Tibi. One surgery on his spine left my brother paralyzed. He could not walk anymore. Then they took out his sexual organs. After the fourth operation, I did not see Tibi anymore. I cannot tell you how I felt. It is impossible to put into words how I felt. They had taken away my father, my mother, my two older brothers – and now, my twin.

Josef Mengele, despite being the most wanted criminals of the 20th century, evaded capture and died of natural causes in Brazil in 1979.

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False Memory Implantation

False memory implantation techniques were developed in the 1990s as a way of showing evidence that how easy it is to distort people’s memories of any past event. The methodology involves including memories of horrible experiences, trauma, abuse, and fear through hypnosis.

False memory implantation

Despite the fact that these stories are fabricated, the patients begins to believe that they are in fact real.

One of the most famous instances of “False Memory Implementation” involved a woman from Wisconsin named Nadean Cool.

Nadean Cool underwent psychiatric therapy to deal with a traumatic incident involving her daughter. Eventually, she would come to believe that she had been a part of a Satanic Cult and she was assaulted, and she had witnessed the murder of a childhood friend. She even concluded that she had 120 different identities, including angels and even animals. She also believed that she was abused as a child.

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Dr. Shiro Ishii’s Human Experiment Program in Japan’s Unit 731

Japanese Unit 731 will be remembered because of Dr. Shiro Ishii’s vicious crimes. The total death toll by the experiments in Unit 731 range up to half a million people.

Unit 731

A special project code-named Maruta used Human beings for experiments. The locals were used as a test subjects and were referred to as “logs.” Ishii frequently asked his staff, how many logs had fallen on any given day.

To study the effect of venereal diseases, male and female prisoners were deliberately infected with syphilis and gonorrhea. The prisoners were repeatedly raped by the guards.

Unit 731 had approximately 300 researches and Vivisection was routinely performed without anesthesia. The patients were kept alive during the time their organs were removed.

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Some of the experiments carried out in Unit 731 included.

  • Vivisection
  • Weapon Testing
  • Frostbite Testing
  • Syphilis
  • Rape and Forced Pregnancy
  • Biological Warfare

Female prisoners were forced to become pregnant for use in experiments. The reason stated for the torture was to study the possibility of vertical transmission of diseases, particularly syphilis. Which resulted in a large number of newborns in captivity. While male prisoners were often used in single studies so that the results of the experimentation on them would not be clouded by other variables.

The Unit 731 complex. Two prisons are hidden in the center of the main building.
The Unit 731 complex. Two prisons are hidden in the center of the main building.

It was made clear that anyone who did not co-operate or resist would be shot. After the victims were infected, vivisection was done to study the effect of the disease on the body organs. Genitals of infected female prisoners with Syphilis were called “Jam filled buns” by guards.

The commander of Unit 731 surrendered at the end of the war. Shiro Ishii wanted to use biological weapons in the Pacific War since May 1944, but his attempts were repeatedly snubbed. When the Red Army came in August 1945, the units were ordered to destroy the evidence, such as 300 remeaning prisoners were either gassed or fed poison and the remaining 600 Chinese and Manchurian Laborers were shot. Shiro Ishii died in 1959 of natural causes.

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The Little Albert Experiment by John Watson and Rosalie Rayner

The Little Albert Experiment was a conditioning experiment that might have made sense from a clinical and research perspective, but it had appallingly abusive implications.

The Little Albert Experiment on human

The experiment was carried out by John B. Watson and his graduate student, Rosalie Rayner at Johns Hopkins University. For the experiment, they choose a nine-month-old infant from a hospital.

For the experiment, “Albert” was put on a mattress on a table in the middle of a room. A white laboratory rat was placed near him, and he was only allowed to play with it.

At this point, Watson and Rayner made sound by striking a suspended steel bar with a hammer each time the baby touched the rat. The process was repeated until the child began to cry and exhibit fear at the sound of the hammer on steel. Then Albert was merely present with only the white rat, which caused him to exhibit the same crying, fear, and distress.

In further experiments, Albert became distressed at the sight of several other furry objects, such as a rabbit, a furry dog, and a seal-skin coat, and even a Santa Claus mask.

Psychologists stopped using “Little Albert” as a subject within a few months and initially no further follow up by Watson and Rayner occurred. Because no attempts were made to desensitize him, psychologists became interested in what happened to the infant and whether or not he was permanently impacted by this process.

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Electroshock and LSD experiments On Children

Dr. Lauretta Bender was an American child neuropsychiatrist known for developing the Bender Gestalt Test, she was perceived as a groundbreaking psychiatrist in the fields of autism and schizophrenia. She was hailed as a pioneer, her methods involved electroshock and massive doses of LSD to children. These methods are now perceived as unethical and outrageous. One of her parents described the experiment he endured when he was six years old.

“(In 1944) my mother had been locked up in a mental hospital just before I was born, and I was a ward of the state. A psychiatrist at Bellevue Hospital in New York, Dr. Lauretta Bender, had just begun her infamous series of experiments with shock treatment on children, and she needed more subjects. So I was diagnosed as a ‘childhood schizophrenic,’ torn away from my foster parents, and given 20 shock treatments. I was dragged down the hallway crying, a handkerchief stuffed in my mouth so I wouldn’t bite off my tongue.

And I woke [after the shock treatment] not knowing where I was or who I was… After four months of this, I was returned to my foster home. Shock treatment had changed me from a shy little boy who liked to sit in a corner and read to a terrified child who would only cling to his foster mother and cry. I couldn’t remember my teachers. I couldn’t remember the little boy I was told had been my best friend. I couldn’t even find my way around my own neighborhood. The social worker who visited every month told my foster parents that my memory loss was a symptom of my mental illness. A few months later, I was shipped to a state hospital to spend the next 10 years of my life.”

Dr. Lauretta also used LSD on her patients, she administered the drug in large quantities daily for up to six weeks on pre-teens and young teenagers. No one questioned her endeavors or raised any ethical concerns. In fact, her methods were in the line with the zeitgeist and cultural norms of her moment. In 1987 she passed away, her obituary in the New York Times failed to mention any of her ethical transgressions.

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Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment on African-American Men

The Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the African American Male was a clinical study conducted between 1932 and 1972 by the United States Public Health Service.

A doctor draws blood from one of the Tuskegee test subjects
A doctor draws blood from one of the Tuskegee test subjects

The purpose of the study was to observe the natural history of untreated syphilis. But the African-American men in the study were only told that they were receiving free health care from the Federal Govt. of the United States.

The Tuskegee Institute promised them free medical treatment and burial expenses if a subject passed away during the course of the study. But in reality, they received little care and underwent numerous blood extraction to obtain research material.

The Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis was a major violation of the ethical standards. Even after penicillin was proven to be an effective treatment for syphilis, researchers knowingly failed to treat participants appropriately.

It was not until 1972, that a whistleblower, Peter Buxtun, led to Major changes in the U.S. law and regulation concerning the protection of participants in clinical studies. Now the studies require informed consent, communication of diagnosis, and accurate reporting of test results.

74 of the original test subjects were still alive, and as many as 100 had died of untreated syphilis. In 1992 after a class action suit, survivors received $40,000 and an apology from then president Bill Clinton.

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Wendell Johnson’s Monster Study

The Monster Study was a stuttering experiment performed on 22 orphan children in Iowa in 1939. The study was conducted by Wendell Johnson at the University of Iowa.

The monster study

For the study half of the children received positive speech therapy, praising the fluency of their speech and the other half negative speech therapy, belittling the children for speech imperfections. Many of the normal speaking orphan children who received negative therapy in the experiment suffered negative psychological effects and some retained speech problems for the rest of their lives.

At first, approximately 10 children were selected, both stutterers and non-stutterers were included in each group.

The theory was dubbed as “Monster Study” as some of Johnson’s peers were horrified that he would experiment on orphan children to confirm a hypothesis.

The objective of the study was to provide therapy to stutterers and induce stuttering in previously articulate children. This was done with one-on-one interviews in which a child was repeatedly told by clinicians their speech was impaired.

After only a few sessions, children ranging in ages from five to 12 began to not only have speech issues but also were experiencing behavioral and social issues as well. It was not until 2001 when an investigative reported form the San Jose Mercury-News wrote extensively about the incident that the study received public scrutiny. Six of the orphan children successively sued the state of Iowa, five of them receive six figures settlements in 2007.

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