For the Good of Mankind?: The Shameful History of Human Medical Experimentation
By: Vicki Oransky Wittenstein
Publisher: Lerner Publishing
Publication Date: August 2013
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: December 2013
Eva Mozes could never have imagined in a million years that simply being a twin would save her life. Nor could she have imagined that being one would send her into an unimaginable world of terror in Birkenau. Eva and her twin, Miriam, were separated from their family only to find themselves subjected to Dr. Josef Mengele’s evil medical experiments. “I envision the chimneys, the smell of burning flesh, the medical injections, the endless blood taking, the tests, the dead bodies around us, the hunger, and the rats.” The memories seared into her mind and body, never to leave. Mengele’s crimes against humanity are well know, but what about the other, lesser known ones?
Young four-year-old Simeon Shaw was found to have a very rare form of bone cancer. The diagnosis set a wave of desperation thought his family and the Australian family was willing to try anything, including traveling thousands of miles across the ocean in search of help. Simmy had less than a year to live, but perhaps the University of California Hospital in San Francisco (UCSF) could save him. A mercy flight soon ensued, but the medical experimentation that was carried out on him was far from merciful. A military experiment was underway and they “injected Simmy with toxic radioactive substances, including plutonium.” It was a secret experiment without any ethical borders.
Unusual? A single event? No. There have been countless victims throughout time, including more recent ones, experimented upon in the name of science. Supposedly sacrificing one or more for the common good was an acceptable practice. Eva claimed that “The scientists of the world must remember that the research is being done for the sake of mankind and not for the sake of science; scientist must never detach themselves from the humans they serve.” Perhaps, but this detachment continued, some in secret experiments, others not so secret. In this book you will read about some horrifying experiments done with and without informed consent on men, women, and children conducted in a “conspiracy of silence.”
This is an amazing exposé of little- and well-known cases of human experimentation. Many students will read about the Nuremberg Trials and the resulting ethical stance that resulted in the Nuremberg Code. This “shameful history” discusses experiments that ignored that code, continuing to harm for the greater good of mankind. The cited cases, in some instances, are quite shocking. For example, young boys were fed radioactive oatmeal from 1946 to 1953. The book is generously illustrated with black and white photographs and has numerous, informative sidebars. In the back of the book are critical analysis questions for classroom examination and discussion, an index, a glossary, source notes, a selected bibliography, and additional recommended book, interview, film, and website resources to explore.
Quill says: This is a thought-provoking book that would be an excellent addition to any history curriculum in the homeschool or classroom setting!