Dr. Judith Newman, associate professor of Human Development at Penn State University (Abington), Allen Hornblum and Gregory J. Dober are collaborating on a topic that makes many uncomfortable, but one that needs to be discussed, the exploitation of children as medical “guinea pigs.” Their book, Against Their Will, The Secret History of Medical Experimentation on Children in Cold War America comes out in June of this year.
A short six decades ago, American scientists and doctors increasingly made an unthinkable choice: they would use one of the country’s most vulnerable populations, institutionalized children, as grist in the research mill. Against Their Will traces this harrowing story, showing how thousands of children, in hospitals, orphanages, and mental asylums, became the unwilling subjects of experimental studies. They were drafted as “volunteers” to test vaccines, subjected to electric shock, and given lobotomies. They were also fed radioactive isotopes and exposed to chemical warfare agents. The product of many years of archival work and numerous interviews with both scientific researchers and former test subjects, this is an important and disturbing book that finally uncovers a dark chapter of America’s medical/psychiatric history.