Ethical Issues Related to Human Experimentation

Ethical Issues Related to Human Experimentation

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In January 1944, a 17-year-old Navy seaman named Nathan Schnurman volunteered to test protective clothing for the Navy. Following orders, he donned a gas mask and special clothes and was escorted into a 10-foot by 10-foot chamber, which was then locked from the outside. Sulfur mustard and Lewisite, poisonous gasses used in chemical weapons, were released into the chamber and, for one hour each day for five days, the seaman sat in this noxious vapor. On the final day, he became nauseous, his eyes and throat began to burn, and he asked twice to leave the chamber. Both times he was told he needed to remain until the experiment was complete. Ultimately Schnurman collapsed into unconsciousness and went into cardiac arrest. When he awoke, he had painful blisters on most of his body. He was not given any medical treatment and was ordered to never speak about what he experienced under the threat of being tried for treason. For 49 years these experiments were unknown to the public.

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