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The University of Cincinnati Experiments 1960-1972
On page 4, paragraph 3, line 6 the sentence should read: "In
reviewing a suggestion that patients with carcinoma of the breast,
gastrointestinal tract, and urogenital tract should be treated by
total body irradiation, the Oak Ridge researchers made the
Statement to Congress April 11, 1994 by David S. Egilman MD, MPH.
Mr. BRYANT. Dr. Stephens.
ENGLISH, UNIVERSITY OF CINCINNATI Dr. STEPHENS. I have been somewhat disappointed that we couldn't hear from more family members. I would like to look at some of the medical charts.
The family of the people who spoke to us today suffered. I think everybody that was in these experiments suffered. They were made sick for several days—intensely, usually. Many had to go into the hospital for this treatment. They were taken out of their homes, called up, told to come to the hospital for this treatment.
No matter how long they lived after the radiation, they suffered. The doctors tell us in fact that it can take up to 100 days to recover from whole body or partial body radiation. For those who didn't die directly of the radiation, nevertheless they all suffered, were made ill, possibly were sicker than they would have been for up to 100 days, the ones that lived that long.
Now, we did not hear this morning from any of the so-called short survivors, and we must remember that there were at least eight people who died directly of radiation. We can document this from the doctors' reports. They give us the blood scores for those patients. These patients died within 40 days. We know that they suffered from bone marrow failure. And when that happens, you are wide open to infection. Infection swoops down and takes you away because you have no white and red blood cells to fight it with.
Thus, I wish we could have heard from a lot more families. Let's remember this: 26 people died within 60 days. Their lives were almost certainly hastened by radiation.
As the years went on, the doctors stopped telling us what the blood scores were, because they were no longer studying what was happening to the blood scores. They had already found out that with 200 rads of radiation, you have a good chance of dying of it. They knew what would happen, and they kept on doing it.
So we don't know, for all of those 26 people that is, until we study the medical records which we have only recently gotten and which Dr. Egilman now is studying and others will be studyingwe don't know exactly how all of them died. I am sure we will find that many more than eight also suffered severe bone marrow depression.
The question has been raised, were these patients terminal? My view is, many were not what we would in common parlance today call terminal. Early on in the experiments, a woman was irradiated who had had cancer of the tongue. She was given a high dose of radiation that she might have died from. She was submitted to that lethal risk, but she recovered.
You usually either die or begin to get better within about 40 days of having total body radiation.
She survived. She got very sick, but she survived. She lived after that over 5 years. In fact, we don't know the date of her death. I don't think she could be considered terminal at the time she received this high, possibly lethal dose of radiation.
I have been particularly interested in one patient, No. 090, because of those 26 patients who died between 6 and 59 days after they were irradiated, she is the shortest survivor of all. She lived only 6 days after her radiation. She was an 80-year-old AfricanAmerican woman who lived in Hillsboro, OH.
I did not know until last Friday when I went to a meeting of the families in attorney Bob Newman's office that her family have been identified. I had wondered all of these years who they were. I didn't know her name. Her name is Margaret Bacon. Here is what happened to her. First I should say that we have heard a good bit about bone marrow transplantation and whether this could have helped protect the people who were receiving the higher doses in the later years of the project. It wasn't even tried until mid-way through the project, and at that time, even, it was experimental. The doctors were not sure they could make it work.
So Margaret Bacon had an operation to have her bone marrow removed so that it could then be replaced after her irradiation, to give her a chance of her bone marrow recovering. On the operating table and this was a severe, serious operation, to have your bone marrow removed, it was another ordeal that people had to go through, it took up to 2 hours with general anesthesia-on the operating table or shortly thereafter she suffered a stroke.
She still was irradiated that very day, at 2. They probably did not know that she had suffered a cerebral accident. We read in her patient history, she was shammed, that is, given fake radiation to “see whether that would have any psychological effects, on June 2, 1969. On June 4, bone marrow was aspirated from the posterior and anterior sternum with ease.
At approximately 2 in the afternoon, the patient received 150 rads midline tissue dose total body irradiation.
She experienced only mild nausea and vomiting. Following irradiation, the bone marrow was infused. The patient tolerated the procedure well. No fever, chills, were noted.
On June 9, 1969, the patient was noted to have left sided facial weakness. This is just a few days later. Suggestive of a cerebral vascular accident. On June 10, the next day, six days post TBR, she expired.
In that same report that the doctors submitted, which contains this history, we read as follows.
The second death (patient 090) was anesthesia related. Four days, they say here, after the procedure, that is, the bone marrow aspiration.
I could read-maybe I will have a chance later on, to look at these statements from her family, her nephew, her great niece and her great nephew, who appeared at our meeting on Friday, and they have submitted to you three statements.
They, like the others, do not know anything of an experiment being carried out on their aunt.
If I may return to the question of informed consent, there is no evidence of any kind of consent for the first 5 years, written, oral, otherwise. There is no evidence that has ever been put forward. When consent forms were introduced—and after all we do have these, I saw them years ago, we do have the consent formsnone of them ever stated the real risk to the patients, that is, none said to the patient, “You may die of this treatment, do you really wish to have it?” None ever said that.
I have two recommendations I would like to make, if there is time.
Mr. BRYANT. You might summarize them so we can begin to ask questions.
Dr. STEPHENS. Maybe I will save those. Can I save those?
Statement for House Judiciary Committee -- Martha Stephens
Q. How did you first find out about the radiation project at U. C.?
A. In the fall of 1971 I was starting my fifth gear in the University of Cincinnati English Department. I was thirty-four, an Assistant Professor.
When I first began to look into these experiments, I had no idea anyone had died of the radiation. In the corridor of McMicken Hall one day, a friend in the department, Dave Logan (now the director of Prospect House, an alcohol treatment center in Cincinnati), showed me a brief report from the Village Voice about experiments being done at U. C. for the Defense Department, using poor cancer patients. The reporter Was questioning whether or not the patients knew they were in an experiment; he said some were being irradiated over their whole bodies and were suffering nausea and vomiting for several days afterward.
This was all we knew when a group of us in the Junior Faculty Association decided we should look into the matter. We were living in the tail-end of the sixties, after all, not long after the bombing of Cambodia and so on, and we should remember that many Americans had developed a profound distrust of everything that issued from the Defense Department.
I had a research leave coming up in the winter, with time to study this issue, and I went over to see Edward Gall, who was then director of the Medical Center. I remember visiting him several times and trying out various arguments on him to try to get information; he was courteous, but for quite a while nothing was forthcoming from him. I remember his saying that the files on the project woro long and complicated and would not mean much to people who were not doctors. He said, 'I'm sure you wouldn't want them all." I said, 'We do though. We would like to see them all. If everything is all right, as you say, Dr. Gall, and we have no reason to doubt your word, then perhaps it would be useful to have a campus organization clear up the matter." One day ! went back over to his office and there was a large pile of documents on his desk. These papers were copies of the typescript reports the doctors were sending to the DOD, and I would later find that they told a tragic and terrible tale. Even now, I do not know why ball surrendered these papers to me, and I later realized I was quite possibly the first person outside the Medical School and the Defense Department to see them.