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10 of the Most Disturbing Medical Experiments

Science is one of the most significant and fascinating gifts in human history. It plays an instrumental role in illuminating the truth on various fields of life such as medicine, technology, engineering among others. The science community has helped the world evade numerous calamities through practices and experimentations to validate and proof theories. Scientific researches and experiments boast of many discoveries in the medical practice that have contributed tremendously to saving lives and improving the living conditions of humankind.

However, some of these scientific and medical experiments are not only disturbing but also unethical and gruesome. In the history of experimentation to prove and validate various concepts and theories in the medical field, the world has witnessed many creepy procedures that are unsettling. From syphilis experiments to testicular transplants, this list includes 10 of the most disturbing and unethical medical experiments in history.

Virginal Surgery Without Anesthesia

The American pioneer gynecologist J. Marion Sims experimented on African American female slaves in the 1840s. Sims committed extensive studies and medical experiments with the goal of finding the cure for vesicovaginal fistula the disorder that abnormally links the bladder to the vagina. However, the most disturbing and creepiest aspect is the brutal surgery he carried out on her study subjects without anesthesia. One recorded instance indicates that one subject of the study had to endure over thirty surgical operations before Sims successfully cured her. The kind of pain that his victims had to endure is unimaginable. Sims’ brutal and inhuman crime against humanity in the name of medical experiments are a clear example of medical advancements made at the expense of the vulnerable members of society.[1]

Skin Hardening Experiments

Chloracne resulting from exposure to dioxins, such as those that Albert Kligman injected into prisoners at the Holmesburg Prison

In the 1960s, the US Army financed research on ways to harden human skin as a mechanism to safeguard soldiers from chemical irritants in combats. The dermatologist expert Albert Kligman was commissioned to conduct the study on the Holmesburg Prison inmates. The research and experiment entailed application of different creams and agents filled with chemicals on inmates. The findings showed an overwhelming amount of pain and permanent scars on the experimental subjects with no noticeable achievement of desired outcomes.

To make matters worse, various pharmaceutical firms approached Kligman with a deal to test their new products on prisoners, as Guinea pigs. The prisoners were manipulated with a small payment and compensation packages, but the participants were never informed of the side effects that were likely to come from the experimentation. The results that manifested from the study include skin burn, blistering, and a great deal of pain on the participants accompanied by ruthlessness, brutality, and rough mechanisms of dealing with inmates. Although it eventually paved the way for Kligman to invent Retin A, the journey involved disturbing and inhumane experimentation on human beings. Such scientific experiments are unethically and morally disturbing.[2]

Surgery to Treat Insanity

The head of the insane hub in Trenton orchestrated surgical bacteriology procedures on patients. Dr. Henry Cotton theorized that localized infections cause insanity in human beings. The patients at Trenton were subjected to various surgical procedures without their consent mainly to remove different organs that Cotton beamed to be the root cause of insanity in the patient. The process encompassed extraction of teeth and other body organs. The doctor and his team believed in the medical treatment that he allowed the same medical and surgical procedures to be conducted on his family and himself.

According to Dr. Cotton, the procedure registered the highest rate of successful treatment of insanity. The claim attracted tremendous criticism regarding the ethical perspective of the experiments and the doubt on the truthfulness of the results. It was later established that Dr. Cotton exaggerated the effects to receive credit.[3]

Scorching Water as Treatment for Pneumonia

Scorching Water as Treatment for Pneumonia

Dr. Walter Jones in 1840s conducted experiments on typhoid pneumonia patients aged between 15 to 30 years by powering boiling water into the patients for a cure. The victims who demonstrated signs and symptoms such as high fever, coughing, running nose, vomiting, sore throat among others were subjected to the brutal and disturbingly unethical treatment of scorching hot water. Dr. Jones claimed the findings of his experiment works and healed the patients. The truth is that this was obviously a punishment and torturous treatment with probably no possibility of a successful outcome.[4]

Testicle Transplant and Testosterone Injection Experiments

Testicle Transplant and Testosterone Injection Experiment

The chief prison physician Dr. Leo Stanley, San Quentin prison, California from 1913 to 1951 was obsessed with a theory that male with low levels of testosterone is prone to committing crimes. He believed that all men with criminal records exhibit the characteristic feature, they all have low levels of the hormone testosterone in their body. To help the world and the society to mitigate the levels of crimes, Dr. Leo believed that increasing the levels of testosterone in convicted criminals in prison is critical in regulating criminal behaviors in the prison inmates.

With an ambition to prove his theory, the prison physician and his team carried out testicle transplants on criminal inmates using testicle organs obtained from executed criminal convicts. The challenge was the shortages or a limited number of prison convict executions. So the team resorted to improvising to advance their experiment. Prisoners were injected with liquefied animal testicles. The experiments were not only absurd but also inhumane. Dr. Leo Stanley boasted of success in his experiments on over 650 prisoners. He cited cases of prisoners he described to have positively responded to his experiment, increased in energy and reduced the atrocity behavior after receiving a testicle transplant from an executed convict.[5]

Unit 731

medical experiments

The Japanese army developed and conducted various scientific experiments to create biological weapons for use in the warfare. The Japanese universities and medical institutions supported and sponsored the Unit 731 program whose primary purpose was to develop the biological weapon. Unit 731 used their research and biological weapon products in experiments that involved human beings. The group experimented with killer diseases such as anthrax, cholera, plague among other pathogenic infections on the war prisoners from China and Asian civilians as guinea pigs for their research.

Further, the participants in the experiments were exposed to vivisection without anesthesia or pressure chambers in an attempt to establish the quantity an individual can accumulate before bursting. Worse still, the post-war American government provided passage to some of the Unit 731 prisoners as a tradeoff for the experimental findings.[6]

Two Headed Dog Experiment

Two Headed Dog Experiment

The science and advanced medical studies behind the successful invention of the organ transplant and coronary surgical procedures involves one of the most morbid experiments of all time. Vladimir Demikhov is celebrated and attributed for the scientific and medical research and experiments that resulted in the development of the human organ transplant and various coronary surgery procedures in the medical arena. For instance, Demikhov is known as the first surgeon to successfully performed a coronary artery bypass surgery on the warm-blooded animal.

However, the experiments and practices that led to a successful operation are breathtakingly disturbing and gruesome. For one, the two-headed dog experiments, Demikhov stitched the head of the puppy to the German-shepherd dog. The findings indicate that both dogs survived. However, they did not last long enough as they died due to tissue rejection, among the over 20 dogs created under this experiment, the longest surviving animal lasted 28 days. The experiment sounds cruel, inhuman, and disturbingly disgusting to see or even read about it. However, the idea and concept of human organ transplant and coronary surgery were pioneered from these experiments.[7]

Syphilis Experiment in Tuskegee

Tuskegee experiment

The U.S Public health service carried out clinical research involving syphilis infected patients in Tuskegee Alabama. The infamous experiment was carried out from 1932 to 1972 on people suffering from syphilis with the control group, where due to free treatment, some patients were denied treatment. The goal was finding out the development of the disease in the untreated condition.

The experiment involved 600 participants with 399 infected with latent syphilis and the 201 as a controlled group for the experiment. The patients were alienated from treatment and left to suffer the pain of the disease. The lawsuit was filed against the U.S. government for the unethical and inhumane experiments on human beings. The outcome of the experiment was disturbing and scary, over 100 patients died, 40 more spouses were diagnosed with the disease and over 20 children were born with syphilis.[8]

Shock Therapy and SLD On Kids

Shock Therapy and SLD On Kids

The psychologist expert of the 1940s Lauretta Bender is attributed with psychological tests to evaluate and assess the cognitive abilities and child motor. The best studies and work of Bender that is well known is the Bender Gestalt test. However, Bender is also associated with some controversial experiments in the course of her career. For one, the shock experiments on the pediatric patients with the ambition and believe to cure them of childhood schizophrenia condition. Secondly, she prescribed adult size dosage of LSD to children for mind-bending, resulting in adverse effects and harm on the children and the patients. The inhuman experiments that are notorious illegal and against human rights were allegedly funded by one of the branches of the CIA[9]

Sigmund Freud: Emma Eckstein Experiment

Emma Eckstein Experiment

The 27-year-old Emma Eckstein sought medication for menstruation, stomach pain, and depression in the 1890s. During this period, the cases of extreme masturbation were categorized as one of the mental disorders and Freud prescribed hysteria as the treatment for Eckstein illness. The medical partner of Freud was an expert in the throat, ear, and nose surgery and theorized that nose cauterization can be used in curing excessive masturbation. The surgery was successfully performed.

However, he accidentally stitched her leaving the surgical gauze in her nasal passage causing permanent disfiguration, cerebral hemorrhage and eventual death in 1924. Freud desperately devised the theory to cover up the horrific malpractice and experimentation in medical filed by his partner flies. For one, Freud advanced that Hemorrhage pleading was caused by Eckstein’s desire for other people’s affection and love, the aspect he included in his seduction theory. The practice is horrific and unfortunate given that the young woman would have just swallowed a few pills to solve her problem in the current era.[10]

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