A high level of criminal radioactivity

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A high level of criminal radioactivity. The U.S. government’s recently admitted role in radiation experiments on humans from the 1940s to the 1970s was questioned 13 years ago in these pages. In “Informed Consent” (Sept./Oct. 1981), Howard Rosenberg revealed that in the mid-1960s, cancer patients at the Institute of Nuclear Studies in Oak Ridge, Tenn., were used as guinea pigs when NASA needed data on human sensitivity to radiation.

Government scientists administered huge doses of radiation to at least 89 patients, among them six-year-old leukemia patient Dwayne Sexton, without regard to what was considered appropriate therapy. Concerned with the high levels of radiation astronauts were likely to encounter in space, researchers wanted to find out how much exposure would induce the vomiting and nausea associated with radiation sickness. The Sexton family was not fully informed of the risks these tests posed to Dwayne; he died of leukemia-related complications in 1968.

Now, Energy Secretary Hazel O’Leary has called for compensation for those who were harmed. The White House is investigating the extent of the experimentation, which may have involved several other government agencies. But for the Sextons and other victims, money in exchange for “the Buchenwald touch” (as one physician involved in radiation experiments wrote in a 1950 memo to the Atomic Energy Commission) is little consolation.

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And the truth is, going into the final 4 days of the year we still needed to raise $TK to hit our $350,000 goal and start 2021 on track. It's nerve-wracking, wondering if the big spike we normally see at the end of December is going to be another thing that doesn't go as planned in 2020, or worse, if, now that Donald Trump is set to leave the White House (for longer than a taxpayer-funded golf trip to a property he owns), folks might be pulling back from fighting for the truth and a democracy and think the hard work is done.

It's not, and if you can right now, please consider a year-end donation to support our team's fearless nonprofit journalism so we can close that big fundraising gap and finish the year strong, ready for all that's ahead in 2021. Whether you can give $5 or $500, it all matters in keeping us charging hard, and we'd be grateful.

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