n 1947, the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg charged Nazi doctors with war crimes, including experimentation upon prisoners of war. The Germans’ ably conducted defense hinged upon Dr. Gerhard Rose’s contention that U.S. doctors were guilty of exactly the same abuses—regularly subjecting prisoners to dangerous, painful involuntary experiments. The trials culminated not only in the conviction and execution of many accused physicians but also in the Nuremberg Code, which was devised to govern future medical experimentation.
In The Nazi Doctors and the Nuremberg Code,24 George Annas and Michael Grodin analyze how U.S. investigators rejected Nuremberg and replaced it with naught but hollow assurances that American medical researchers needed no such constraints.
Poverty, not criminal behavior, is the most common feature of the imprisoned. Jails are full of people, both guilty and innocent, who are there only because they are too poor to make bail. By the 1970s, most prisoners in Holmesburg, for example, were legally innocent men awaiting trial. Between the 1940s and 1970s, bail bondsmen typically would spring an inmate for a down payment of 10 percent of his bail, so that a man jailed in lieu of a five-hundred-dollar bond could buy his freedom within weeks with the fifty dollars he earned from a single medical experiment.
Most people don’t realize that prison medical research, which all but died out in the 1970s, is enjoying a quiet renaissance. Since the late 1980s, investigators in Arkansas, Maryland, South Carolina, Texas, Florida, Connecticut, and Rhode Island have been conducting and proposing research in prisons.
Most of these researchers are funded by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which, for example, supports the Yale School of Medicine with $178.7 million and the University of Miami Medical Center with $191 million….Dr. Joseph Zwishenberger’s radical new approach to lung cancer, which is to heat the subjects’ blood to a temperature where the errant cancer cells theoretically would not thrive. To test his theory, he sedates inmates and connects them to a machine called the BioLogic HT System, which removes blood via venous and cervical tubes. The blood is heated, then returned to the inmate’s body, which is kept at a very dangerous elevated temperature of 108.5 degrees. Any adult taken to a hospital with a temperature of 105 degrees would be considered an emergency case and cooling strategies would immediately be undertaken, but in Zwishenberger’s protocol, inmates’ 108.5 temperatures are sustained for two hours.
–Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present by Harriet A. Washington