Must Army provide medical care to ‘human test’ soldiers? | Jim Porter |

Must Army provide medical care to ‘human test’ soldiers? | Jim Porter

War is hell, and the business of war is no better.


Beginning in 1942, the War Department (as it was then called) approved the use of human subjects, American soldiers, in experiments to test the effects of chemical weapons. What a brilliant idea.

World War II era tests exposed our soldiers to arsenic-based blister agents, mustard gas, choking agents, cyanide, blood poisoning agents, and tear gas, sometimes at “acutely toxic levels,” occasionally applied to the genital areas.

War is hell, and anyone who applies toxins to his own soldiers’ genitalia should rot in hell.

By the end of World War II, more than 60,000 service members had served as subjects in the United States’ chemical weapons research program.

TESTS in the ‘50s

In the 1950s, the Department of Defense initiated a new wave of chemical weapons research and experimentation with even greater threats than mustard gas, such as nuclear blasts, nerve agents, and chemicals with intense psychoactive properties.

These experiments were conducted from 1955 to 1975. Another 6,700 human subjects were subjected to 250 different chemical and biological agents.

No doubt most suffer to this day. Those who survived.


In the 1960s, the Army promulgated regulations requiring disclosures (This Poison May Harm You) to soldiers undergoing chemical weapons experiments.

The regulations required the Army to notify drug-testing subjects of new treatments – all those soldiers the Army “has reason to believe may still be adversely affected by their prior involvement in the drug-testing program.”

The regs also mandated medical treatment for former test subjects.

In yet another regulation, the Army exempted itself from notifying test subjects who had been subject to nuclear chemicals; however, the Army later conceded that was a “serious editing error.” Of course.


Several test victims who were experimented on and several veterans’ organizations sued the Army demanding that it had a duty to notify former test subjects of new treatments and a duty to actually provide medical treatment.

The federal district court agreed with the plaintiffs: The Army had a duty to provide notice to the former victims.

But the trial court also ruled for the Army: While the Army had a duty to provide medical care under its regs, it need not do so because medical care was available through the Veterans Administration.

The latter ruling did not settle well with the test subjects and veterans’ organizations that appealed.


The Federal Court of Appeals ultimately ruled the Army had to follow its regulations and policies.

What a concept. Notice of newly available treatments must be given to former test subjects, and the Army must provide medical care. The regs mandate medical care even if medical care is available through the VA.

It disturbs me that these vets had to sue for these basic rights.

Jim Porter is an attorney with Porter Simon licensed in California and Nevada, with offices in Truckee, Tahoe City and Reno, Nevada. Jim’s practice areas include: real estate, development, construction, business, HOAs, contracts, personal injury, mediation and other transactional matters. He may be reached at or

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