Sunday, January 16, 2022

The Scariest Real-Life Experiments

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Nayanika Dey
Just your everyday perpetually cash-strapped teenager.

We owe a lot of our lives to the scientists silently slaving away in their laboratories, trying to find cures and antibodies. Today, most of the experiments are performed on lab animals such as hamsters, rats or monkeys. This in itself creates issues with PETA, and several groups have risen in protest. But for scientists to understand the phenomenon of several drugs, practical tests are a necessity. And not too long ago, the subjects – voluntarily or involuntarily were humans! Here are a few of the scariest real life experiments ever performed:

  1. Mind Control


Mind control
By SvetaZi/ Shutterstock

In the 1950s, the CIA launched a top secret program called the MKULTRA to find the effect of drugs and hallucinogens on the minds of people. For the next two decades, tests were performed on unsuspecting victims by slipping LSD into the wine provided to bar patrons or giving it to heroin addicts under the cover of heroin. There were over 149 research projects, and they tried sleep deprivation and electric shocks to the brain to try to perfect the technique.

There were over 149 research projects and they tried sleep deprivation and electric shocks to the brain to try to perfect the technique. However the Watergate scandal caused the then CIA director Richard Helms to order an immediate stop on it and in 1973 he ordered all files related to it to be destroyed. But as fate would have had it, some of the files remained untarnished and when the Freedom of Information Act was passed in 1977, they were forced to release all the data which went over 20,000 pages.

2. Skin Hardening Experiment

Skin tightening experiment
By DimaBerlin/ Shutterstock

In 1960, a dermatologist named Albert Kligman decided to invent a drug to harden the sin of people. The research was even funded by the US Forces because they believed it would help soldiers to escape skin irritants in combat zones. Kligman mainly worked on prisoner who weren’t fully told about the program. In fact when he arrived at the prison, he is quoted to have said “All I saw before me were acres of skin.”

His mechanical treatment of the patients was evident when he refused to stop even after they developed scars, blisters and went through excruciating pain. Eventually public uproar caused him to abandon the experiment and destroy all files. The former inmates were never offered any compensation and Kligman was never tried. In fact, he lived his days as a rich man by marketing a product to reduce acne.

3. World War II

World War II
By Everett Collection/ Shutterstock

WW2 did not only cause millions of deaths by airstrikes by also by ruthless medical practices. While most of the Jews were sent off to the concentration camps, others who were deemed healthy were sent to laboratories for researches to be done on them. Josef Mengele, who was termed as the ‘Angel of Death,’ was the chief perpetrator. He worked at the Aushwitz camp and has a fascination for twins whom he’d dissect and more often than not, exchange their body parts.

Humans were subjected to boiling water or low pressure until they exploded. Many were sent in a chamber with the temperature slowly dialing down. In fact, today, all that we know about hypothermia is due to the experiments performed then on live people. Victims were also deliberately inflicted with mustard gas bombs to see what effect it had on them. It also came to light that Mengele had practised in South Africa without a license. This led police to look for him but he used an alias and passed away due to a heart attack later on.

4. Hepatitis in the Mentally Disabled

By Explode/ Shutterstock

Willowbrook State School was a school for the mentally disabled children but things took a turn for the macabre when in the 1950s there began an outbreak of hepatitis. The unsanitary conditions guaranteed that everyone would contract it but Dr, Saul Krugman who had been sent to investigate it decided to use them as an experiment.

The experiment involved infecting children and studying them and soon critics were rallying at the door. They were sent away when Krugman produced permission letters from the children’s parents. In reality, the school was so overcrowded that agreeing to these conditions was the only way their child could be admitted into the institution. Public outcry led to its closure.

5. Unit 731


Heavily guarded and oft denied, Unit 731 did exist. During the World War, the Japanese Imperial Army developed a cover research centre in Harbin where prisoners of war were regularly tested upon. Men, women, children and pregnant ladies were subject to experimentation  such as amputation to study blood loss, weaponry tests, intentional virus infiltration and removal of organs from a live person. Responsible for some of the worst crimes in history, most of the doctors who worked there, after the end of the war rose to be prominent in their field and never faced persecution. The victims were released with no compensation.

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