Working draft:

Would you like to be injected with hepatitis?


From 1963 through 1966, studies were carried out at the Willowbrook State School, a New York State institution for "mentally defective persons."

These studies were designed to gain an understanding of the natural history of infectious hepatitis and subsequently to test the effects of gamma globulin in preventing or ameliorating the disease.

The subjects, all children, were deliberately infected with the hepatitis virus; early subjects were fed extracts of stools from infected individuals and later subjects received injections of more purified virus preparations.

Investigators defended the deliberate injection of these children by pointing out that the vast majority of them acquired the infection anyway while at Willowbrook, and perhaps it would be better for them to be infected under carefully controlled research conditions.

During the course of these studies, Willowbrook closed its doors to new inmates, claiming overcrowded conditions. However, the hepatitis program, because it occupied its own space at the institution, was able to continue to admit new patients. Thus, in some cases, parents found that they were unable to admit their child to Willowbrook unless they agreed to his or her participation in the studies.

This case caused a public outcry because of the perception that parents and their children were given little choice about whether or not to participate in research.


This is medical. I think it speaks volumes to how many in the medical industry view themselves versus the rest of humanity. For that reason I suspect that it was screened according to the standards of the day in medical research and approved without a second thought by the medical gods.

This is basic Golden Rule stuff, "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you" (for those who skipped Bible School). It is a sad demonstration of why some think of the Hippocratic Oath as the Hypocritic Oath.

These folks deserve jail time (IMHO). But there is no sense in which industrial-strength reviewing of Social Science proposals is connected to nor justified by this sorry incident.