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Against Their Will: The Secret History of Medical Experimentation on Children in Cold War America 1st Edition

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ISBN-13: 978-0230341715
ISBN-10: 0230341713
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Editorial Reviews

Review

The authors do a terrific job of striking the right balance in detailing one of the darkest chapters in modern American medicine, perpetrated by some of the brightest women and men in the field who were affiliated with among the most prestigious scientific and medical institutions in this country. (The Boston Globe)

Against Their Will is a powerful, important book, which lucidly documents one of the most shameful--and frankly horrifying--chapters in American history. I hope that it will be widely read and discussed, and that as we confront this past, it will prompt us to think of this question: How are we doing today as a society when it comes to protecting and nurturing our most vulnerable children? (Robert Whittaker, author of Anatomy of an Epidemic)

Against Their Will is a chilling book that will open your eyes to one of the darkest chapters in our nation's history. Sometimes disturbing, at times appalling, it is the kind of book that keeps you turning pages to find out more. The authors have researched the subject in depth and have done a masterful job documenting what, to most of us, is shocking and unthinkable. Highly recommended. (Andrew Goliszek, author of In The Name of Science)

Against Their Will is a moving and impressively researched account of science gone awry, and it's full of unjustly forgotten stories from a dark era. It will engross anyone interested in medicine's past, the institutional treatment of children, and the best of investigative writing. (Jack El-Hai, author of The Lobotomist: A Maverick Medical Genius and His Tragic Quest to Rid the World of Mental Illness)

The authors of Against Their Will have done an outstanding job in identifying these egregious events and critically reviewing the fascinating, sociopolitical circumstances in which they occurred. This thoroughly researched, highly absorbing book will undoubtedly have a significant positive impact upon medical research in future years. A truly marvelous contribution to patient safety and human dignity by three erudite authors. (Cyril Wecht, MD, author of From Crime Scene to Courtroom)

Horrifying and painstakingly documented history…[of] the chilling legacy of negative eugenics--the sickening imperative to prevent the survival and reproduction of the least fit--and the push by the 20th-century medical establishment to find cures and treatments by using children as human guinea pigs…At least now, their voices are heard. (Publishers Weekly)

The harrowing story of the exploitation of institutionalized children in American medical research. (Kirkus)

About the Author

Allen M. Hornblum is the author of five books, including Acres of Skin and Sentenced to Science. His work has been featured on CBS Evening News, Good Morning America, NPR's Fresh Air, BBC World Service, and The New York Times.

Judith Lynn Newman is an associate professor of Human Development at Penn State University (Abington).
Gregory J. Dober writes on medical issues for organizational newsletters such as Prison Legal News.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; 1 edition (June 25, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0230341713
  • ISBN-13: 978-0230341715
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #873,664 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Paul Gelman on July 4, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The name of Dr. Clemens Benda does not say much to many people. Benda emigrated from Germany during Hitler's rise to power in the 1930s and would become one of the most respected doctors in the United States. However, this respected physician was in fact a monster who was responsible for injecting radiation into children's bodies in order to see its effect on the very young. These experiments were conducted at the MIT with the help of other facilities and in this respect he was not alone. Some children aged between one and eleven years old, who were found at various institutions, were given other lethal doses of radioactive iodine, while this time the project was being coordinated by researchers from Harvard Medical School and the Boston University School of Medicine. Some of these miserable children suffered from Down syndrome and other forms of mental retardation. All this happened during the forties when the Cold War was played out between the major powers. One of the sponsors of these experiments was the CIA. One of its physicians informed a class of recruits in the 1960,"Our guiding light is not the Hippocratic Oath but the victory of freedom". It was clear that the USA had fallen behind the Soviets with regard to its chemical warfare capability and the immediate need to come up to speed in preparation for some future enemy attack. It was also equally clear that research scientists "could not fulfill this mission by animal experiments alone. Human test subjects would be needed; fortunately, most experienced reserchears already knew where to look for volunteers". Nearly seven dozen institutions took CIA money 'many of them for the purpose of plying American citizens with hallucinogenic cocktails and more".Read more ›
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By V. Davis on August 10, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've been working in the field of Developmental Disabilities since we still had 'mentally retarded' people. I've been reading about the history of the field about as long. That is probably why I found this particular volume a bit thin. 'Inventing the Feebleminded' is a more comprehensive history of the overall treatment of the population under study, and 'The War Against The Weak' is an infinitely better reading of eugenics. While this book does discuss a particular aspect of the mistreatment of 'my' people that needs to be recognized and acknowleged, this book seems to jump around a bit too much and spends a bit too much editorializing and wearing its heart on its sleeve when a more comprehensive account of the facts and data should be sufficient to engender the outrage that the authors seem to feel the need to let us know we should feel. Still, having said that - if you are not familiar with subjects like eugenics and treatment of mentally challenged people in large institutions, this would well be worth the read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey S. Kaye on July 15, 2013
Format: Hardcover
It's been 15 years since author Allen Hornblum's landmark book on unethical human experimentation in U.S. prisons, Acres of Skin, was published. His new book, written with co-authors Judith L. Newman and Gregory J. Dober, is a worthy follow-up to the earlier book. Against Their Will: The Secret History of Medical Experimentation on Children in Cold War America should become a standard work in the fields of medical ethics and history of science.

Against Their Will is an extraordinary work, a plea for humanist ethics in science and medicine as against political and economic expediency. It takes us into even darker places than Hornblum's earlier book as it examines the long history of unethical experiments done on children in America. Hornblum and his co-authors trace the hideous practice of using children, even infants and pregnant women, as guinea pigs, back to the ideology of the eugenicists in the early 20th century. Ostensibly practicing science in the heroic mold -- science was to cure all of mankind's ills -- doctors and scientists turned to the youth warehoused in orphanages, children's homes and hospitals as apt subjects for medical and other experiments. The children, who could not make any informed consent, were often labelled "feeble-minded," or were children with Downs Syndrome or cerebral palsy, or were just too poor and illiterate to make any fuss. Their parents often were not notified of the experiments, or they were overtly or subtly coerced to give consent.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Miranda on July 28, 2013
Format: Hardcover
There's a lot of really interesting, important information in this book, and it's a history that should be more well known. The writing in general is good, but the organization is bad and the writing is sometimes repetitive. Each experiment is also covered quite briefly, so be prepared to look for other books if particular issues grab you.

The title/cover is also a bit sensationalistic given how few experiments in the book actually had anything to do with the Cold War, and how much of it was devoted to other time periods entirely. It is more like the shortest book it was possible to write on the general history of child experimentation in the 20th century. In the later chapters many of the stories aren't actually experiments, just questionable practices doctors embraced with vigor regardless of how little research had been done.

A frequent refrain is "Doctors in the US didn't pay any attention to the Nuremberg code at all." There's a chapter about WWII and the Nuremberg code but that line is still repeated frequently (numerous times in a single chapter) in reference to individual doctors/experiments. There are some other specific ideas that are over-repeated as well (such as researchers specifically choosing devalued populations vs college prep schools).

The individual sections on vaccine research, radiation research, etc... aren't organized chronologically and sometimes aren't organized in a logical way at all. There's also a slight tendency to leave out dates when something prior to 1945 is being talked about it, or sometimes the date is mentioned towards the end of the story that's being related, which is always frustrating, but especially so in a book that jumps around so much and mentions so many different experiments.

Again, lots of interesting information here, but it could have been presented so much more effectively and with a less misleading title.
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