10 Brutal Medical Experiments that Took Place in History

by Binupriya Tomy2 years ago
Picture 10 Brutal Medical Experiments that Took Place in History

Times were crazy in the 19th and 20th centuries when the medical field was developing exponentially. There were several unethical medical experiments that were carried out without consent in minorities, disabled, and even mentally retarded people assuming them to be defective or tricking their guardians into giving consent. Many healthy people were also exposed to extreme radiation experiments which also included those in the military. Here are 10 brutal medical experiments that took place in history.

1 In 1950, conjoined twins Masha and Dasha Krivoshlyapova were kidnapped by Soviet doctors shortly after their birth and tortured in a variety of medical experiments that were dehumanizing for 12 years. They ended up developing extremely different personalities due to these laboratory conditions.  

Masha and Dasha Krivoshlyopova
Masha and Dasha Krivoshlyapova. Image credit:- The Less You Know The Sounder You Sleep, By Juliet Butle/mirror.co.uk

Masha and Dasha Krivoshlyapova were born in 1950 in Moscow, Soviet Russia when scientists were performing experiments on “defectives.” The twins had two heads, two arms, one leg each, and two torsos. They also had a third limb in the back.

The twins were considered perfect guinea pigs to do experiments on extreme hunger, sleep deprivation, and other experiments to establish how these affect the blood and the nervous system. Masha and Dasha were injected with radioactive material to see how the other one reacted. They had also gone through electrocution and extreme temperature tests.

Masha exhibited as a psychopathic and tough character while Dasha was a kind and gentle empath. These were the results of being medically tortured for years on end. They made an appeal on national television and were moved to a safe house with improved living conditions.

Masha fell ill and died of a heart attack on April 14, 2003. Dasha was getting sick from toxins from Masha’s decomposing body and died seventeen hours later. (1, 2)


2 Civilian Public Service (CPS) camps introduced by the US government came up with an option for people who were conscientious objectors for firefighting, forest fire prevention, and medical experiments in 1941. This research was done to help test the abilities of soldiers in extreme conditions. People signed up as the experiments were of national importance and the results helped in treating soldiers in WWII as well as in medical practices up to today. 

Civilian Public Service
Civilian Public Service. Image credit:- JonHarder/wikimedia.org

CPS is a program developed during the onset of WWII for the ones whose conscience forbade them to kill. Rather than go to war, these individuals were given the opportunity to work for causes such as dairy testing, planting trees, fighting forest fires, and most importantly, serving as subjects for medical experiments. 

A fraction of them willingly participated in this scientific research as guinea pigs. Disease outbreaks were a severe problem among soldiers during the war. Typhus was one of the major diseases transmitted. For the typhus study, they were infested with lice and then several chemical powders. Some experiments required starvation and some demanded vitamin-deficient diets.

The CPS participants took part in the experiments willingly as it was of national importance even though it was unethical according to modern standards. Many were left with permanent health defects. (1, 2)


3 Over 200,000 US soldiers were constantly subjected to radiation experiments without their consent during World War II to understand radiation effects. It was considered part of the training in the 1950s. These experiments were conducted with utmost secrecy but involved the massive intentional release of radiation. 

US soldiers subjected to radiation
US soldiers were subjected to radiation. Image credit:- Naval Research Laboratory via npr.org

During WWII, the U.S wanted to know how much radiation soldiers could withstand in the case of a nuclear explosion. From 1946 to ’63, the military conducted a wide array of nuclear bomb tests which also included deliberately releasing radiation endangering military personnel as well as civilians.

The testers have sent clouds of radioactive strontium and uranium to a facility in New Mexico that detected radiation from 70 miles away. 

Around 250 such tests were conducted around that period. In December 1949, the Green Run test that was carried out in Hanford released thousands of curies of iodine-131. Several releases were later carried out to simply test newly installed radiology monitoring equipment.

Even though the government tried to be honest about the releases, the efforts looked less candid. Everyone had been sworn to secrecy and nobody told anyone what they witnessed during these tests. (1, 2)


4 Sir Henry Head is an English neurologist who conducted self-experiments such as cutting off a nerve from his left hand and studying it for four and a half years with the help of a collaborator. He was also drawn to the study of the glans penis and has done several self-experiments on his.

Sir Henry Head
Sir Henry Head (on the left). Image credit:- wellcomeimages.org via wikimedia.org

Dr. Henry’s nerve sectioning experiment had a tremendous impact on the field of neurology. He pioneered experiments on sensory dissociation. The results of his sensory loss and recovery experiment were published in a 127-page article.

He tested the sensation of the penis with the same degree of importance as the study of his left hand. Head concluded the glans study after studying using a variety of modalities like interrupted current, heat, tactile wires, cotton wool, and extreme temperatures. He gave himself up as a test subject to understand the physiological basis of sensations.

In 1903, he underwent an operation for dividing cutaneous nerves on his left forearm and charted the sensation over four years. His final study was of his degeneration when he got Parkinson’s disease which he then began his studies of defects of speech. (1, 2)


5 In the 1800s, people who had disabilities and mental illnesses were often used for unethical medical experiments. In 1895, Henry Heiman, a New York City pediatrician, as a part of a medical experiment injected two disabled boys, one four and one sixteen, with gonorrhea to see if it would spread like a germ.

Boy injected with gonorrhea
Image is used for representational purposes only. Image credit: Shutterstock

During the mid-1800s many racial minorities, people with disabilities, mental illness, prisoners, and orphans were un-consenting subjects of medical experiments. He successfully exposed an epileptic four-year-old and a disabled sixteen-year-old to gonorrhea to study its contagious nature.

There were no rules for obtaining consent from their guardians. He even infected a 26-year old with tuberculosis. Studies in the 19th and 20th centuries have turned up around 40 reports of experiments that were done on disabled children where the gonorrheal organism was applied through their eyes. (1, 2)

Also Read:
10 Medical Trials That Went Terribly Wrong

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