5 Most Unethical Human Experiments Of Modern Times

POSTED BY Heather Johnson, UPDATED ON April 15th, 2024
Most Unethical Western World Human Experiments

Stern laws govern human experimentation for medical and military purposes in most countries of the world and have been done for some time. Despite social and often legal implications, this didn’t stop a giant swathe of human experiments being carried out by unscrupulous researchers in the first half of the 20th century, a time when people should have known better. Here are the top 5 most unethical western world human experiments of modern times:


5. The Tuskeegee Study

The Tuskeegee Study

During the period 1932 to 1972 around 600 poor black men in Tuskegee, Alabama were invited by the US Public Health Service to receive treatment for their syphilis. In reality, the health service was using data gained from ‘treating’ the patients to study the progression of the disease over time.

Even after 1940 when they had the means and the supplies (penicillin) to treat the men, they continued to leave them untreated. It is probably one of the most notorious studies performed on humans in the United States.


4. Roberts Bartholow, 1874

Roberts Bartholow

Upon hearing that successful movement in the body could be achieved by applying electricity to the brain, Mr. Batholomow saw a great opportunity when a patient presented to him with a hole in her skull caused by a brain ulcer. Electrodes were placed into the brain matter and he and his team started to up the current.

As she became more distressed and started to cry, they increased the current a little more until she had a full seizure and entered a coma for 25 minutes. Upon awakening, she died 3 days later, it was concluded the experiment had nothing to do with this.


3. Sloan-Kettering Institute, 1952

Sloan-Kettering Institute

Researchers, fully aware of the risk of causing cancer injected live cancer cells into the bodies of hundreds of prisoners in Ohio. Of the prisoners, half of them were black and the other half were not black.

Also, 300 ladies from the institute were injected without being informed.


2. Irradiation Experiments

Irradiation Experiments

From 1960 to 1971, the Department of Defense paid for consenting full-body irradiation to be performed on poor and black cancer patients, under the guise they were being ‘treated’ for cancer. The real aim of the experiments was simply to learn the effects of radiation on the body.

Around the same time, many prisoners underwent irradiation either involuntarily or for small amounts of pay, not fully knowing what they were consenting to.


1. Project Bluebird, 1947-1953

Project Bluebird

Many experiments on soldiers include forced drug addiction and withdrawal, and the injection of psychoactive drugs. More notoriously, 7000 troops were given LSD without consent or knowledge. As a result, many of the soldiers developed mental illnesses and many tried to commit suicide.

The aim of the experiments was to be able to gain ultimate control over an individual so that they would perform anything that was ordered of them.

Do you have any more experiments to add to our list of the most unethical Western world human experiments of modern times? Let us know in the comments below!

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