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PDF ó The Plutonium Files: America's Secret Medical Experiments in the Cold War ì When the vast wartime factories of the Manhattan Project began producing plutonium in quantities never before seen on earth, scientists working on the top secret bomb building program grew apprehensive Fearful that plutonium might cause a cancer epidemic among workers and desperate to learn about what it could do to the human body, the Manhattan Project s medical doctors embarked upon an experiment in which eighteen unsuspecting patients in hospital wards throughout the country were secretly injected with the cancer causing substance Most of these patients would go to their graves without ever knowing what had been done to themNow, in The Plutonium Files, Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Eileen Welsome reveals for the first time the breadth of the extraordinary fifty year cover up surrounding the plutonium injections, as well as the deceitful nature of thousands of other experiments conducted on American citizens in the postwar years Welsome s remarkable investigation spans the s to the s and draws upon hundreds of newly declassified documents and other primary sources to disclose this shadowy chapter in American history She gives a voice to such innocents as Helen Hutchison, a young woman who entered a prenatal clinic in Nashville for a routine checkup and was instead given a radioactive cocktail to drink Gordon Shattuck, one of several boys at a state school for the developmentally disabled in Massachusetts who was fed radioactive oatmeal for breakfast and Maude Jacobs, a Cincinnati woman suffering from cancer and subjected to an experimental radiation treatment designed to help military planners learn how to win a nuclear war Welsome also tells the stories of the scientists themselves, many of whom learned the ways of secrecy on the Manhattan Project Among them are Stafford Warren, a grand figure whose bravado masked a cunning intelligence Joseph Hamilton, who felt he was immune to the dangers of radiation only to suffer later from a fatal leukemia and physician Louis Hempelmann, one of the most enthusiastic supporters of the plan to inject humans with potentially carcinogenic doses of plutonium Hidden discussions of fifty years past are reconstructed here, wherein trusted government officials debated the ethical and legal implications of the experiments, demolishing forever the argument that these studies took place in a less enlightened era Powered by her groundbreaking reportage and singular narrative gifts, Eileen Welsome has created a work of profound humanity as well as major historical significance From the Hardcover edition This book is essential reading Welsome has written a thoroughly researched book documenting the complex array of criminal research projects supported by the US government after World War II Thousands of people cancer patients, reform school children, military personnel, the poor, the uneducated, the vulnerable were deliberately exposed to plutonium, uranium, and other radioactive materials in the name of science and national security There were times when I found myself turning away in ange This book is essential reading Welsome has written a thoroughly researched book documenting the complex array of criminal research projects supported by the US government after World War II Thousands of people cancer patients, reform school children, military personnel, the poor, the uneducated, the vulnerable were deliberately exposed to plutonium, uranium, and other radioactive materials in the name of science and national security There were times when I found myself turning away in anger and disgust at the callousness of the researchers Welsome documents who approved and carried out the experiments as well as the rationales that guided them Most importantly, she names and humanizes the victims, giving voice to them and their families Note, this book contains many disturbing descriptions of the effects of radiation caused illnesses I need to preface this review by saying a couple things about myself so than about the book For one, I grew up wanting to either be a fighter pilot or work for the Department of Energy in one of the fabled national labs I always saw the military and the DOE as leading the way in many areas of the most advanced of high technologies and I wanted very badly to be part of that So I have respect for these institutions, possiblythan many readers who will pick up this book Secondly, when I need to preface this review by saying a couple things about myself so than about the book For one, I grew up wanting to either be a fighter pilot or work for the Department of Energy in one of the fabled national labs I always saw the military and the DOE as leading the way in many areas of the most advanced of high technologies and I wanted very badly to be part of that So I have respect for these institutions, possiblythan many readers who will pick up this book Secondly, when I first read this book, it was around the year 2000 or 2001, and I had along with another student begged a nurse to provide us with a tour of a long closed off portion of a local hospital We found everything from old surgical instruments to patient records left to rot That same night, I checked this out of the university library I was in for an unexpected treat, but one that leaves you hard pressed to sleep at night This book details the experiments conducted by the military, DOE, and other Federal authorities and their contractors on American patients and test subjects ranging from convicts to fighter pilots to school children in a home for the retarded In most of these cases, the test subjects were totally unaware they were even taking part in a medical research study There was no informed consent and when there was, a lot of details were left out Now, for the worst of it these studies were conducted to find out what the effects were of various types of radioactive isotopes on the human body These patients were injected, fed, or otherwise exposed to radioactive substances without even knowing it, and at the behest of our government Why was the government so keenly interested in this topic Because it was the apex of the Cold War and many military planners believed that sooner or later, the Russians would attack and we would be exposed to nuclear fallout Thus, they wanted to know how to prepare doctors and hospitals to respond to such a disaster Eileen Welsome is an investigative journalist who began her research on this topic after she stumbled upon it and wrote a shorter multi part story for a major newspaper in the American Southwest Her research and writing alike are first rate, and she won a Pulitzer for this book, as well she should have The book reads like a horror story but is all true and is so well documented it pains you to even imagine the hours Welsome must have spent in dusty academic libraries and government file rooms Like all the best writers on topics like this Laurie Garrett s research on emerging diseases comes to mind as does Stephen Hall s book on the immune system and the quest for interferons , Welsome takes the time to paint portraits of the patients, doctors, military officers, and other players in these true stories so we can relate to them on a human level She also allows the facts to come forth and speak for themselves while the lines between good and bad in a tale such as this may seem pretty obvious, she points out the nuances and explains why researchers believed their work was not only valid and just, but also necessary The lion s share of the experiments Welsome details here were not declassified and made public until around 1994 when President Clinton s Secretary of Energy, Hazel O Leary, declassified them on the president s orders Despite that, the matter didn t make as much a stir in the news even then, but thankfully Welsome s book will serve as a much needed document of this aspect of American history First and foremost, this book is LONG, so don t attempt it unless you have the time to dedicate to it I was debating if Welsome could cut any of the background on the Manhattan Project, Los Alamos, the Japanese bombings, etc but after much reflection I ve concluded she probably cut as much as she probably could without losing the narrative for the uninitiated Of course, if you re already well versed in the historical background, much of it will be repetitive, but in the context of human exper First and foremost, this book is LONG, so don t attempt it unless you have the time to dedicate to it I was debating if Welsome could cut any of the background on the Manhattan Project, Los Alamos, the Japanese bombings, etc but after much reflection I ve concluded she probably cut as much as she probably could without losing the narrative for the uninitiated Of course, if you re already well versed in the historical background, much of it will be repetitive, but in the context of human experimentation the threads tie together very interestingly Other reviewers found the massive cast of characters hard to manage, but again, if you ve ever read anything about the Manhattan Project, you ve dealt with this problem as there were numerous scientists involved in every aspect So, if you can handle the long, complicated, and cast saturated narrative, this book is VERY compelling Extremely depressing at times, but a significant portion of American history that NEEDS to be shared in order to prevent it from happening again Speaking of which, never trust a terminal diagnosis without a second opinion, preferably from a non government funded doctor The Plutonium Files by Eileen Welsome garnered her a Pulitzer Prize for its writing This is a part of our country s history that so many people know very little about yet it continues to impact us today This book should be required reading by any Civics or history class studying the second world war and the Cold War The interestingly applied approach to ethics during this time in history, which resulted in thousands of unsuspecting American citizens being injected with Plutonium, Uranium, a The Plutonium Files by Eileen Welsome garnered her a Pulitzer Prize for its writing This is a part of our country s history that so many people know very little about yet it continues to impact us today This book should be required reading by any Civics or history class studying the second world war and the Cold War The interestingly applied approach to ethics during this time in history, which resulted in thousands of unsuspecting American citizens being injected with Plutonium, Uranium, and radionuclides without their knowledge or consent, leaves room for one to speculate about transparency at every level within the nuclear complex, and various decisions that have been made throughout the decades to push reactors beyond their prescribed levels, and to dispose of waste with such reckless disregard for human exposure and or safety for the short and long term The Plutonium Files puts a face on every human radiation experiment which was declassified by President Clinton in the mid 1990 s as he formed the Radiation Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments Despite the importance of this event, our country was too busy watching OJ Simpson s speeding bronco to pay attention and educate themselves about the decades of human experimentation on U.S citizens If that isn t a wake up call in and of itself as to what we consider news and what we should be paying attention to verses what we ARE paying attention to, I don t know what is This book is GREAT reading, very well written, and very educational