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Bizarre Medical Experiments

I’ve never thought experiments like these below could be done on this planet. I thought we’re better. Maybe I was too naiv. A list of many more similar experiments will be published in the book, Elephants on Acid this November. You can buy it from Amazon. Why should we talk about these? Probably to know what not to do in the future…

Milgram told subjects they were participating in an experiment to determine the effect of punishment on learning. One volunteer (who was, in reality, an actor in cahoots with Milgram) would attempt to memorize a series of word pairs. The other volunteer (the real subject) would read out the word pairs and give the learner an electric shock every time he got an answer wrong. The shocks would increase in intensity by fifteen volts with each wrong answer.


Heath referred to his homosexual subject as patient B-19. He inserted Teflon-insulated electrodes into the septal region of B-19’s brain and then gave B-19 carefully controlled amounts of stimulation in experimental sessions. Soon the young man was reporting increased stirrings of sexual motivation. Heath then rigged up a device to allow B-19 to self-stimulate himself. It was like letting a chocoholic loose in a candy shop. B-19 quickly became obsessed with the pleasure button. In one three-hour session he pressed it 1500 times until, as Heath noted, “he was experiencing an almost overwhelming euphoria and elation and had to be disconnected.”

Stubbins Ffirth was a doctor-in-training who lived in early nineteenth-century Philadelphia. To gain his medical degree, he undertook to determine whether yellow fever is contagious. He used himself as the test subject, exposing himself to the disease in every way he could imagine. He smeared himself with the blood, urine, sweat, and black vomit of yellow-fever patients. He dribbled the vomit into his eyes. He even drank undiluted vomit fresh from the mouth of a patient.

His “driving” experiments consisted of putting subjects (human beings) into drug-induced coma for months on end (up to three in one case) while playing tape loops of noise or simple repetitive statements. His experiments were typically carried out on patients who had entered the institute for minor problems such as anxiety disorders and post-partum depression, many of whom suffered permanently from his actions.

  • Heartbeat At Death

On October 31, 1938, John Deering volunteered to participate in an experiment, the first of its kind, to have his heartbeat recorded as he was shot through the chest by a firing squad. The prison physician, Dr. Stephen Besley, figured that since Deering was being executed anyway, science might as well benefit from the event. Perhaps some valuable information about the effect of fear on the heart could be learned.


Read more in this book!

(Hat Tip: Boing Boing)

5 Comments Post a comment
  1. Jan #

    I do not know whether the Tuskegee Study ended in 1972 is mentioned in the book. It resulted in the birth of medical ethics.

    September 14, 2007
  2. You’re absolutely right, Jan! We’ve learnt about during our bioethics lectures…

    September 14, 2007
  3. Yikes! The last one though, is kind of common. A lot of times, if someone is going to just die anyway, doctors used to attempt to learn from it. Personally, I like all the chopped up pieces of murders that you can sometimes find in medical museums.

    September 15, 2007
  4. Anonymous #

    You should look into electronic harrassemt and see how ugly our sociey is, especially with doctors, nurses, police departments, government agencies…’s a very sick experiment they are doing on human beings. I hope I can find the people that are doing these things.

    May 6, 2008
  5. Your style is unique in comparison to other people I’ve read stuff from. Thanks for posting when you have the opportunity, Guess I’ll just book mark
    this site.

    January 12, 2013

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