Apologizing to Guatemala — and Perjury at Nuremberg
Obama apologized on Friday for experiments conducted in Guatemala between 1946 and 1948 in which American scientists deliberately infected prison inmates, prostitutes, and mental patients with syphilis without their consent. The apology is a striking reminder that the Nazis were not the only ones that conducted horrific, non-consensual medical experiments on human subjects in the first half of the 20th century (although, to be sure, the Nazi experiments were vastly more brutal than any conducted by American scientists). Indeed, America’s own sordid history of medical experimentation led to the worst example of perjured testimony during the Nuremberg Military Tribunals. From Chapter Four of my book:
The misconduct involved Andrew Ivy, the head of the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Medical College, who was the prosecution’s star expert witness at trial. Prior to his testimony, he was present during the cross-examination of another prosecution witness, Walter Leibrandt, a professor of medical history at the University of Erlangen, who had testified that experimentation on humans was unethical even if the subjects consented and the experiments had medical value. On cross, Leibrandt admitted that the standard he endorsed condemned not only the defendants’ experiments, but also American malaria experiments conducted on inmates at Stateville Prison in Illinois during the war. Concerned by Leibrandt’s testimony, Ivy decided to defend the Stateville experiments by testifying that they had been overseen and approved by a public ethics committee. No such committee had existed, however, much less one that approved the experiments.
Undaunted, Ivy returned to the United States and convinced the Governor of Illinois, Dwight Green, to form an ad hoc committee – the Green Committee – to advise him on the ethics of medical experimentation on human subjects. Ivy did not tell the Governor that he intended to testify when he returned to Nuremberg, the committee never met, and the committee’s “report” was authored by Ivy himself. Ivy nevertheless not only claimed at the Medical trial that the Green Committee had approved the Stateville experiments, he responded to a defense question about whether “the formation of the committee had anything to do with the fact that this trial is going on” by testifying that “there is no connection between the action of this committee and this trial.” It is unlikely that the prosecution was aware of the true facts – but it is beyond question that Ivy blatantly perjured himself.
In an interesting move, the Medical tribunal permitted two defendants in the case, Ruff and Rose, to personally cross-examine Ivy. Rose’s questioning was extremely effective — so effective, in fact, that the judges suddenly decided to limit him to 30 minutes of cross-examination!
That’s just a snippet from the book. If you want to learn more, you’ll just have to buy it…