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have an obligation to be fully forthcoming, to admit mistakes if
mistakes have been made, and to ensure that safeguards are put in
place with respect to any experiments that may be conducted today
or in the future.
The issues of full disclosure and safeguards
may not be directly related to this forum.
However, I have
particular interest in these issues, and the Government Operations Committee upon which I serve has been exploring the facts of the UC cases and the possibility of holding hearings on disclosure of government information and safeguards.
Finally, I am here to listen
and to continue to learn as
much as I can about what happened 2 and 3 decades ago.
not a court of law; we are not here to press charges.
are not here to politicize a sensitive and emotional topic. I view our role as fact finders who want to ensure that the federal
government acts responsibly and fairly with respect to the
patients and their families, to the investigators and to the DOD
officials involved in the study.
I commend all of the witnesses who have agreed to testify
before us today and very much look forward to their testimony.
Thank you Mr. Chairman.
Mr. BRYANT. At this time we would invite to come to the witness table the first three witnesses on our panel.
First, Joseph Larkins, survivor son; Gloria Nelson, survivor granddaughter; and Katherine Hager, survivor daughter.
We would ask that each of you, as well as all of the witnesses who come behind you, limit your statement to 5 minutes in order that we might ask you questions and have time for all the witnesses to speak.
I will begin on my left with Mr. Larkins. Mr. Larkins, thank you very much for coming here today. Please proceed.
STATEMENT OF JOSEPH LARKINS, SURVIVOR SON Mr. LARKINS. All right. Well, my name is Joe Larkins. I am 52 years old now. My father, Willard Larkins, passed away in 1971. At that time, I was 30. My family consisted of myself, an older sister, and my parents. When my father passed away he and my mother were in the process of raising a grandchild, my sister's son. Neither of my parents were well educated, but my father was hard working and honest. If Cincinnati General Hospital and the doctors therein had been honest, there is, of course, the possibility that my father could have lived for several more years. Instead, he went from a fairly able-bodied, middle-aged father, and husband to a premature death caused by an experiment. My father did not know that he was being used as a guinea pig; my mother did not know; as his children, we were not informed of the procedures to be used or of the risks involved.
I feel as though Dr. Saenger and the other doctors involved, if you will, knew that the high levels of radiation which they administered to these patients had the very real probability of being fatal. Oh, how right that is! My father was very much a family man, yet these people killed him as surely as if they had put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger themselves. These doctors left my mother, with no job skills, to raise a grandchild as best as she could. My mother lived until 1983, but she was a broken woman after my father's premature and unexpected death.
I know that my father knew that something was very wrong with the treatments being given to him at Cincinnati General. He even asked me, "Son, what are they doing to me? They're trying to kill me.” That is how bad the pain he endured after the treatment was. He suffered so needlessly.
What really gets me about this situation is the fact that the Pentagon contracted with these doctors and this hospital to test the effects of radiation on the human body. Everyone realizes that Cincinnati General Hospital, now the University of Cincinnati Hospital, treated many low-education, low-income patients. I guess they felt that in some way the fact that these patients were not rich, upper class citizens gave them the right to experiment with their bodies without informed consent. Not so. I feel sure these physician-researchers were well paid for their part, and it would be very interesting to know the types and dollar amounts of the grants given to Cincinnati General by the Federal Government. I feel sure that all parties, with the exception of the poor, unsuspecting patients and their families, were well compensated.
But since when, in our society, does one man or even a group of them, have the right to play God?
A very good example of this is our 20th century "assisted-suicide doctor." This man is contacted by terminally ill patients who wish to end their own lives with dignity and choose, by their own volition, not to suffer needlessly for years. These people make the decision to die in peace, yet our great judicial system, along with the medical community, brought this compassionate physician up on charges.
The differences in these deaths and the death of my father are that my father did not choose to die
someone else made that decision for him without consulting or informing him, and they were amply compensated for it.
I feel that the price they should be required to pay to the families of the people they killed should be exceedingly high. I also feel that the Federal Government should be named as a coconspirator in this case, because that is exactly what it was, a conspiracy.
No person—and I emphasize “no” person-would willingly consent to a treatment with any degree of fatality involved. People, both you and I, simply value life too much. I think that is the big thing here, the patients were not informed. I know that behavior of this sort would not be tolerated by the medical community today.
But then again, this entire mess was surrounded by a thick veil of secrecy on both the doctors' part and on the part of Cincinnati General Hospital. It is still being closely guarded and kept under yet another veil of secrecy to this very day by the University of Cincinnati, in that they have yet to provide the medical records of the patients involved in this experiment—but they have, as of now. At the time of this statement they were not in the entirety, to the next of kin immediately.
They are hedging to save their own skin. I was promised my father's complete medical file over a month ago; as of this writing, I have nothing. But like I said, we do have them now.
I only hope that you, the congressional committee, see fit, as members of the human race, to break this matter wide open here and now and award just compensation to the families of the victims. I feel that the physicians involved and also the Federal Government, the Pentagon, should pay; and also I beg you to strip any and all of the doctors involved of all their medical credentials that they hold. If justice prevails in this matter—and I have faith that it will—a strong message will be sent to our government officials and the private physicians, to whom people entrust their lives and the lives of their loved ones, that behavior of this sort will simply not be tolerated, that justice will, in fact, be both swift and severe.
I pray that a situation such as this will never again be faced by a group of people. If this statement to you, the congressional committee, does anything to help in the name of justice, then my father's death and the sorrow and hardships that his family faced, will not have been completely in vain.
Mr. BRYANT. Thank you, Mr. Larkins.
STATEMENT OF GLORIA NELSON, SURVIVOR
GRANDDAUGHTER Ms. NELSON. Amelia Jackson, patient number 67. On October 21, 1966, after being discharged from General Hospital, Ms. Jackson was a very weak, ill woman. She was unable to take care of herself properly and depended on the family for all of her basic needs. She experienced bleeding from her rectum, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, weight loss, and was in constant pain. Her condition never improved.
Within a few weeks, she was readmitted to General Hospital. The family was informed she should be transferred to Drake Hospital. Ms. Jackson indicated she was afraid and want to return home. She was transported home, where she was loved and cared for by us until she died on March 25, 1967.
The family of Amelia Jackson would like for this committee to know that for the entire 163 days after receiving the irradiation, her condition continued to deteriorate. We feel that the 100 rads of partial-body irradiation administered to her was cruel, and didn't help her condition in any way. It is our belief that she may have lived longer if this experiment had not taken place.
A doctor is someone you trust. His job is to do everything in his power to alleviate your pain and suffering. However, this was not the case. She was always crying, moaning, groaning, and in excruciating pain. Ms. Jackson was used to further Dr. Saenger's professional goals. It was purely an ambitious and callous act. Neither Ms. Jackson nor the family was informed or consented to her being used in an experiment conducted by Dr. Saenger, and funded by the Department of Defense. There has clearly been a coverup by means of the Government, General Hospital, Dr. Saenger, and the city of Cincinnati. We cannot believe that they consented to such atrocities to be financed by the Government utilizing the Jacksons' and the family's taxpaying dollars.
Mr. BRYANT. Thank you, Ms. Nelson.
Ms. HAGER. To the total body radiation subcommittee and whom it may concern:
In January 1994, I began noticing articles in The Cincinnati Enquirer regarding total body radiation experimentation done on cancer patients in the 1960's at Cincinnati General Hospital. Since I knew my father, Joseph Mitchell, was treated at that hospital for cancer during that period of time, I contacted Linda Reeves at the Cincinnati Enquirer. After a brief discussion with Linda, it was determined that my father had indeed been involved in the total radiation experimentation as patient No. 51, the first patient to be identified. From this point, my husband and I, along with the assistance of the news media, attempted to piece together any records available regarding my father's treatment at the hospital.
In October 1963, my father was diagnosed with lung cancer in the right lung, and was admitted to Cincinnati General Hospital. Surgery was scheduled for November 1963. Although there is no notation of this scheduled surgery in his medical records, we have a letter which was written by my father to my sister detailing the planned operation. For some unknown reason, the surgery was canceled on the day it was scheduled to take place, with no explanation. The surgery was never rescheduled. Instead, my father was given a schedule of dates to return to the hospital for cobalt treatments. At this point, I asked the doctor why the surgery was canceled. He told me he was too weak for surgery and decided to opt for the cobalt treatments instead.
In reality, my father was not in a weakened state at that time. but was in relatively good health, still working, and living a normal life. It wasn't until the cobalt treatments started that my father began to go downhill. After 35 days of treatments, my father was so weak that he had to retire from work and move closer to my family so we could help care for him.
In early 1965, my father was again admitted to Cincinnati General Hospital with severe chest pains. It was at this time he was subjected to the total body radiation, 150 rads. He immediately started on a drastic downhill spiral. After much suffering, my father died on July 14, 1965, 74 days after the total body radiation.
Since total body radiation had not been performed on cancer patients at Cincinnati General Hospital prior to the Government funding of 1960, I feel that my father, along with other cancer patients, were handpicked and used in total body radiation, not as a treatment for cancer, as they had been told, but as a coverup for a study performed for the Department of Defense to determine possible effects on soldiers in nuclear warfare.
It might be noted that at the time my father died, two of my brothers were in the U.S. Air Force, one in Vietnam in the war zone. The Red Cross had to locate him and bring him home for the funeral. Both brothers have since retired from the Air Force. Isn't it ironic that two of my brothers were serving this country in the military, while at the same time the Government was sponsoring experiments which shortened or ended their father's life?
I would like to read the little note that my father sent to my sister, which was written November 2, 1963.
DEAR ISABELL: I am very sorry, honey; I need your help. First, I am going to have an operation, first part of the week. The doctor is not giving out the right news to the family. It is going to be a long, serious operation. I will be about two months here, and it is very serious. Only a 50/50 chance to come through, as all I have left is half a lung. So therefore I ask you to do all you can to help mom as much as possible, while I am in here.
I can tell you more when I see you again, but please do not take it to heart. I am trusting everything will turn out okay, which is doubtful. See you soon.
DAD. Thank you very much. Mr. BRYANT. Thank you, Ms. Hager.
Mr. Larkins, let me start with you by asking, when did you or your representative request your relative's records from the University of Cincinnati?
Mr. LARKINS. A little over a month ago.