Testimony before House Energy and Power Subcommittee, 18 Jan 1994 Partial Transcript

Dr. David Egilman - South Shore Health Center.

My name is David Egilman. I'm a practicing physician in Braintree, Massachusetts. I practice internal medicine and occupational medicine. I'm also on the Faculty of Brown University and a member of the Center for Community Responsive Care in Boston. [In closing comments, he mentions that he was associated with NIOSH for many years.]


The worst experiments that were conducted, in my opinion, were those that resulted in the deaths of their participants. Those were conducted at the University of Cincinnati between 1961 and 1972. They defined the purpose of their experiments in their first report to the funding agency, the Defense Department. "These studies are designed to obtain new information about the metabolic effects of total body and partial body irradiation, so as to have a better understanding of the acute and sub-acute effects of irradiation in the human."

In another report they went on "The human they wanted to know about the effects in were military personnel who might be irradiated during a war." They went on to describe the doses they were going to give - doses of 100 to 300 rads, eventually doses up to 600 rads were anticipated. 600 rads is lethal to almost everyone who would have received it under the conditions of this experiment. It would have killed everyone who would have received it. The doses that they _did_ give to some of the individuals were enough, in anticipation by the researchers, to kill half of the people, the LD 50 was the dose.

Now the selection of subjects is very important. They were uneducated, average education 4th grade. Low intelligence. They had brain dysfunction, because of their underlying disease. They could not follow simple instructions. They were specifically selected because they had tumors, cancers, that were resistant to therapy. They picked patients whose cancers were not going to be treatable with the radiation. For, you see, in the 30's and 40's this had been tried for cancer therapy. And they knew by 1960 which cancers would respond and which would not. They wanted patients with cancers that would not respond, because then it wouldn't confuse the purpose of the experiment, which was to find out what effects the radiation would have on soldiers. If it actually treated the cancer, you would have some confusion between the cell necrosis, the cell death from the treatment and the effects of the radiation.

62 of 88 patients were black. If this was a cancer study, it is the first one that excluded affluent white people at its inception.

Now the methods: Because they were studying the effects of radiation to predict them on soldiers, the effects were known, nausea and vomiting. Treatment for nausea and vomiting was specifically denied these patients. This is just inhumane. Some of these patients had stage 4 severe nausea and vomiting, that went on for days and longer. And treatment for vomiting was available. Despite the fact that they specifically selected those whose cancers would not be treated, the patient was told he was to receive treatment to help his disease. Other effective treatments that were available for some of the cancers at the time, not cures, but palliative treatments were available, for the gastro-intestinal cancers, 5FU, which is still used today for that same tumor, were denied the patients with that type of cancer.

And what were the results. Radiation sickness and death. The study participants, the researchers themselves, in 1973, said that 8 of the victims died as a result of the radiation. I have reviewed the data of the individual patient records, the summaries provided by the researchers, I've only reviewed a few of the actual charts, as did the junior faculty committee. at the University of Cincinnati, which should get credit for having first discovered this and stopped it in 1971, and, in our opinion, more than 20 of the patients died as a results of the experiments.

Now let me turn to plutonium injections, and make just a few comments, since you've heard a lot already. First, plutonium is not just a substance [which] causes cancer, it is an acute toxin. It can make you suffer, just from having it injected. Acutely, right away. The doses injected were potentially lethal, and I've reviewed the summary of the diagnoses. In my opinion, there is no way that physicians at that time could have thought that those patients were terminal. 12 of 18, in my opinion, were clearly not terminal. Maybe 3 of those are questionable, 9 of 18 were definitely not terminal. And they were not terminal by what physicians knew was terminal then - injured knee is not a terminal disease .

Unfortunately I must say that the research was meaningless from a scientific standpoint. This is ICRP, [referring to slide] the radiation standard for protection developed in 1972. They knew about the experiments and referenced them. And they said because they were so poorly done and full of errors that the data from these 18 people were not meaningful in developing the radiation protection standard. So while these people may be heroes [reference to earlier testimony], because this won't happen, again, unfortunately, the science in, it was not science, that it didn't provide us meaningful information.

As you heard no medical follow-up care was planned and none was performed. The injection of lethal plutonium into healthy individuals, showed a reckless disregard for human life, by physicians, unfortunately, and others.

[testimony continues]