"Ethics and the Guinea Pig Experiments"

"Ethics and the Guinea Pig Experiments"

The following excerpts come from a transcript of a conference held at Pendle Hill in 1996 for Quaker conscientious objectors, which included a panel on "Ethics and the Guinea Pig Experiments" in which the men discussed the risks and results of the human guinea pig experiments.


"I'm Henry Dasenbrock. As I've been working on the CPS Directory trying to clarify the listing of the men who were in experiment programs, which did not exist in the 1947 directory, I've been reading a lot of records and trying to locate where men went and I've been impressed by two things. One of them the fact that many of the projects looked at now seem to have had a fairly strong military support significance. And I wonder if that was really clarified to the men when they were asked to volunteer for these projects."

Ralph Rudd: "I'm Ralph Rudd. I was in the jaundice experiment at the University of Pennsylvania. I was told quite clearly by Dr. Neefe that the problem of how infectious hepatitis was transmitted was one that they needed to get an answer for to save the lives of soldiers in Italy. I understood that they would attempt by means of a succession of possible materials running from a nasal spray to feces what the--how the transmission took place.

And I think that I was fairly informed of what the risks were. At least the doctor said that there was no risk of death from it. I was concerned about that because I had a new wife. And it turned out that one of our fellows did come close to death one night, I was told the next day. But I did not...My recollection is that I didn't even need to be fed intravenously. I was able to get through it by drinking and eating myself. But I think that in my case the advice was full and adequate."


Stephen Angell: "The military implications of some of these projects and I wonder about the screening process as to whether these were appropriate projects to present in the camps. I happen to have been part of the louse experiment at Campton where I felt it was a worthwhile project to be a part of because since lice spread typhus and cholera this would be a way of saving thousands of lives as the invasion took place in Southern Europe.

And indeed the powder that was discovered, which happened to be DDT, had other implications but it was used and did have the desired effect. But I think that perhaps there should have been more screening of these projects and the CPS men should have been informed of some of the military implications of the projects that they were in."


Glenn Mallison: "I'm Glenn Mallison from Ithaca Monthly Meeting, Ithaca, New York. Malcolm has described very well the experiment that I was on in New York, at Welfare Island, although I was not in the same unit as Malcolm. Some of you who are recent flyers may think they are still experimenting with the food. But actually one of the reasons for our experiment was the fact that planes were not pressurized at that time. So when you flew at 17,000 feet or higher the experience tended to rob the body of nutrition. And this was what they were trying to overcome.

Now one of the ethical matters that we discussed at that time and that I've thought about since then was the fact that most of the flyers at that time were military people. They were the bomber pilots and the bomber crews. And so what we were doing actually was helping them. Valujet was not flying very many planes to London at that time. There were not frequent flyers at that time on civilian planes but there were a lot of military planes.

And this was what we were experiment with although we were told, of course, that the results of our experiments would be used for civilians. Well, they were eventually. But also eventually they built better planes and pressurized them and so what we were doing was mostly military work and we've often wondered about that."


--Taken from Friends in Civilian Public Service: Quaker Conscientious Objectors in World War II Look Back and Ahead. Wallingford: Pendle Hill, 1998. p 171-5.