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AGAINST THEIR WILL: The Secret History of Medical Experimentation on Children in Cold War America
by Allen M. Hornblum, Judith L. Newman, and Gregory J. Dober

AGAINST THEIR WILL: The Secret History of Medical Experimentation on Children in Cold War America by Allen M. Hornblum, Judith L. Newman, and Gregory J. Dober

The shocking account of how doctors at prestigious institutions routinely used children to carry out dangerous research, including experiments with LSD and lobotomies

During the Cold War, an alliance between American scientists, pharmaceutical companies, and the US military pushed the medical establishment into ethically fraught territory. Doctors and scientists at prestigious institutions were pressured to produce medical advances to compete with the perceived threats coming from the Soviet Union. In Against Their Will, the authors reveal the little-known history of unethical and dangerous medical experimentation on children in the US.

Through rare interviews and the personal correspondence of renowned medical investigators, they document how children—both normal and those termed “feebleminded”—from infants to teenagers, became human research subjects in terrifying experiments. They were drafted as “volunteers” to test vaccines, were doused with ringworm, subjected to electric shock, and given lobotomies. They were also fed radioactive isotopes and exposed to chemical warfare agents.

This groundbreaking book shows how institutional superintendents influenced by eugenics often turned these children over to scientific researchers without a second thought. Based on years of archival work and numerous interviews with both scientific researchers and former test subjects, this is a fascinating and disturbing look at the dark underbelly of American medical history.

Allen M. Hornblum is the author of five books, including Acres of Skin and Sentenced to Science. His work has been featured on CBS Evening News, Good Morning America, NPR’s Fresh Air, BBC World Service, and The New York Times.

Judith Lynn Newman is an associate professor of Human Development at Penn State University (Abington).

Gregory J. Dober writes on medical issues for organizational newsletters such as Prison Legal News.

Praise for Against Their Will:

“Horrifying and painstakingly documented history…[of] the chilling legacy of negative eugenics—the sickening imperative to prevent the survival and reproduction of the least fit—and the push by the 20th-century medical establishment to find cures and treatments by using children as human guinea pigs… At least now, their voices are heard.” —Publishers Weekly

“The harrowing story of the exploitation of institutionalized children in American medical research… The book is filled with vivid stories of researchers, many well-known, spurred on by Cold War pressures to discover cures and preventives, who experimented on children with fungicides, radioactive milk, LSD and birth-control injections.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Against Their Will is a powerful, important book, which lucidly documents one of the most shameful--and frankly horrifying--chapters in American history. I hope that it will be widely read and discussed, and that as we confront this past, it will prompt us to think of this question: How are we doing today as a society when it comes to protecting and nurturing our most vulnerable children?” —Robert Whittaker, author of Anatomy of an Epidemic

“Against Their Will is a chilling book that will open your eyes to one of the darkest chapters in our nation's history. Sometimes disturbing, at times appalling, it is the kind of book that keeps you turning pages to find out more. The authors have researched the subject in depth and have done a masterful job documenting what, to most of us, is shocking and unthinkable. Highly recommended.” —Andrew Goliszek, author of In The Name of Science

“Against Their Will is a moving and impressively researched account of science gone awry, and it's full of unjustly forgotten stories from a dark era. It will engross anyone interested in medicine's past, the institutional treatment of children, and the best of investigative writing.” —Jack El-Hai, author of The Lobotomist: A Maverick Medical Genius and His Tragic Quest to Rid the World of Mental Illness

“The authors of Against Their Will have done an outstanding job in identifying these egregious events and critically reviewing the fascinating, sociopolitical circumstances in which they occurred. This thoroughly researched, highly absorbing book will undoubtedly have a significant positive impact upon medical research in future years. A truly marvelous contribution to patient safety and human dignity by three erudite authors.” —Cyril Wecht, MD, author of From Crime Scene to Courtroom