Wednesday, June 14, 2017

How the University of Cincinnati buries its sins

I was in Cincinnati yesterday to meet Martha Stephens, the former English professor who led the fight to expose the notorious whole-body radiation experiments funded by the US military at the University of Cincinnati in the early 1970s.  At least 90 cancer patients, many of them poor African Americans, were given massive doses of radiation in order to study how radiation exposure might affect soldiers in a nuclear war. The studies were later the subjects of congressional hearings and an investigation by President Clinton's Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments.

As part of a 1999 legal settlement, the University of Cincinnati agreed to erect a memorial to the victims on hospital grounds. So I decided to visit the hospital and have a look. Unfortunately, nobody at the hospital seemed to have any idea what I was talking about. I was eventually directed to a very pleasant woman from nuclear medicine, who led me through a maze of basement corridors to an obscure courtyard. Here is what I saw.

But if you push the branches of the shrubbery aside and wedge yourself into the corner, you can see the memorial, such as it is. No explanation of the experiments, nothing at all to hint of any wrongdoing, just a few words and then a list of the names of the subjects.

So much for a memorial. What about Dr. Eugene Saenger, the radiologist who oversaw the abuses? With him it's a very different story. His name is displayed prominently on a plaque outside the nuclear medicine clinic, and there is even a little shrine to his work. It makes no mention of his victims.

But hey, at least the families of the victims have some shrubbery. That's more than most mistreated subjects can say.

1 comment:

  1. He sounds like a candidate for the Mengele Prize to me.