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Acres of Skin: Human Experiments at Holmesburg Prison Paperback – April 14, 1999

ISBN-13: 978-0415923361 ISBN-10: 0415923360 Edition: 1st

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Relying on prisoners' firsthand reports, Hornblum (urban studies, Temple Univ.) has written a thorough account of the questionable medical experimentation carried out in Philadelphia's Holmesburg Prison from the mid-1940s to 1974. Research on everything from cosmetics to chemical warfare agents was conducted there, often with minimal or no record keeping. Such research raises serious ethical issues. Throughout, Hornblum asks whether prisoners can give informed consent, particularly when the potential consequences of the research are not fully explained. Although most of the book centers on Holmesburg, Hornblum does cite other prisons across the country where similar practices took place before they received widespread condemnation in the 1970s. What is shocking about this is that it did not happen in the distant past but in our own generation, with the doctors involved still in practice. Frighteningly, Hornblum reveals that at the Nuremberg trials Nazi doctors cited American prison practices as a defense for their nefarious medical experiments in the camps. Essential for students of medical ethics.AEric D. Albright, Duke Medical Ctr. Lib., Durham, NC
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Thanks in good part to the Freedom of Information Act (and many interviews, too), Hornblum tells the story of medical experiments, ended in 1974, on prisoners in a Philadelphia prison. Most of the experiments involved the effects of chemicals on the skin (hence the title), but they also included military trials, stopped in 1966, of LSD and other mind-altering drugs. Dermatologist Albert M. Kligman and those prison administrators who knew about the experiments always claimed that no prisoners were coerced, informed consent was required, and any prisoner could withdraw from any experiment at any time. Hornblum punches holes in each of those statements. He compares some of the experiments with those of Nazi doctors during World War II, showing how, in one case, a Nazi physician apparently saved his life by describing some of the U.S. prison experiments to the judges in the Nuremberg trials. A low-keyed but devastating picture of U.S. medical experimentation and the men, educational institutions, and drug companies that carried it out. William Beatty --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; 1 edition (April 14, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415923360
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415923361
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #563,963 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Allen M. Hornblum is a Philadelphia based author who tackles controversial, historically under-covered topics in the areas of organized crime, Soviet espionage, and medical ethics. Prior to becoming an author, Hornblum had a varied career that included political organizing, college teaching, and many years in various facets of the criminal justice system. He has served in the Philadelphia Sheriff's Office, Philadelphia Prison System, and the Pennsylvania Crime Commission.

Hornblum's research and books have been widely covered by the media and have been featured on Good Morning America, the CBS Evening News, CNN, the BBC, numerous radio shows, and just about every newspaper in the country including the front pages of the New York Times and the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Hornblum is often asked to lecture on his research and has presented his work to a diverse group including; the National Institutes of Health, the British Medical Association, the FBI, numerous medical schools, as well as Brown, Columbia, and Penn State Universities.

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

50 of 54 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 13, 2001
Format: Paperback
I looked up the negative New York Times book review to see what Higbie's problem was. She thinks Hornblum is biased because he supports "prison reform." The book sticks quite close to the issue of medical experiments in prison, which must be at the very least something in prison in need of "reform". Higbie is also offended by the comparison to Nazi medical practices. But that's not exaggeration by Hornblum. As the book relates, the Nazi doctors at Nuremberg successfully avoided the death penalty by arguing that their own pointless torture experiments were similar to that conducted by U.S. doctors in U.S. prisons.
It's an excellent book. The book focuses on the specific prison, but has a lengthy chapter on experiments on prisoners throughout the U.S.
My only real criticism is the optimistic ending of chapter 3 that the FDA banned prisoner experimentation in the 1980s. As far as I can tell, the regulation was suspended at passage and then repealed in 1997. Fifty years after Nuremberg, experiments on prisoners unable to give informed consent continues.
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43 of 48 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 19, 1999
Format: Paperback
Perpetrator of these atrocities, University of Pennsylvania's "Dr." Albert Kligman, is the second physician in FDA history to be barred from experimenting on human subjects. Both Retin-A and Renova are derivatives of skin hardening chemicals he concocted at Holmesburg Prison. This merciless freak experimented on hospitalized retarded children and helpless elderly patients as well. Never apologized to his tortured victims or their families.
I am permanently boycotting Retin-A, Renova, Johnson & Johnson and Dow Chemical. U. Penn will never get a dime from me either. All of them continue to profit greatly from wanton destruction of human lives.
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18 of 22 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 7, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This book is great because it shows you the depths of exploitation that some people are willing to descend to in the name of science and the almighty buck. America is always so ready and willing to condemn Germany for Nazism, which we should, but we'd better examine our own diabolical potential as well.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful By ~*~K-PoP~*~AnGeL~*~ on May 13, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
We are all aware of the nuclear experiments done during the cold war, right? Well insight shows from this book that many prisoners and people of lower social classes were experimental guinea pigs in the name of Modern Science. It is horrifying to read, and yet interesting at the same time. We also brought over experimental Nazi Doctors from the Holocaust to help the US Government on some experiments and were even given alias names to keep their identities and whereabouts secret. This is even happening today believe it or not, and it is horrifying to think what they have done during the Cold War, I come to think, what ... are they doing now? It's a scary thought!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Ashurbanipal on October 18, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It is a deep look into the inside of something that many do know know about and have never thought about. It is well written, and pictures are included. I highly recommend it.
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10 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 20, 1999
Format: Paperback
ACRES OF SKIN IS A VERY TRUE STORY I'M SO GLAD MR. HORNBLUM FINALLY GOT THE TRUTH OUT ABOUT OUR MEDICAL AND INSTUTIONS ONE OF THOSE HORRID EXPERMINTS WAS GOING ON AT THE OHIO STATE PEN.MY FATHER WAS ONE OF THE FIRST THERE.HE IS NOW DECEASED AND I BLAME OUR STATE AND MEDICAL FACILITIES.
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By Diva on a Dime on October 31, 2013
Format: Hardcover
This piece is an excellent read. It is hard to put down once you get started! I never realized the horrific experiments done on prisoners until I read this book.
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