Doctors are some of the most trusted people in society. Every day, people put their own lives in the hands of physicians and surgeons when they are ill and need treating. This position makes them highly regarded in communities around the world, in large part due to the essential work they carry out and the lives that they can enhance or save. That doesn't mean that all doctors are entirely trustworthy though, and in fact, some have crossed a line that seems entirely horrific to the majority of the population.
This can manifest in several different ways. Doctors looking to advance medicine may use unconventional methods or take short cuts that put patients at increased risk. However, a small number of doctors have taken this to an extreme over the past century or so. Instead of carrying out experiments on patients who have given their full consent and understand completely what the test will entail, some doctors have used more clandestine methods that involve concealing the true intentions of the experiment or testing on people who have given no consent.
In extreme cases, some particularly shocking medical practitioners have even gone further and forced vulnerable people into experiments against their will. In these instances, those involved are usually the most vulnerable in society, such as prisoners or the poor and uneducated, and involve horrendous acts against them.
10 John Charles Cutler
John Charles Cutler was a senior physician at the United States Public Health Service and was in charge of leading the Guatemala syphilis experiments. Only discovered in 2005, these experiments involved deliberately infecting prisoners, soldiers and mental patients with sexually transmitted diseases without their knowledge or consent. The doctors would then test the use of penicillin in treating the diseases. The US also hid the details of the human experimentation from the Guatemalan government, concealing the fact that more than 1,000 patients were infected and that many did not receive adequate medical attention. This led to the death of at least 83 individuals and a formal apology from the US government in 2010.
9 Aubrey Levin
Under the direction of Aubrey Levin, the Aversion Project was an Apartheid government program that ran in South Africa during the 1970s. The project essentially saw hundreds of young gay men and woman, predominantly from the armed forces, subjected to numerous gruesome experiments and techniques in order to try to “cure” them of their homosexuality. This included electroshock treatment, chemical castration and even forced sex changes. This was all done without the consent of those involved, as they were simply forced into the program. Those that went through gender reassignment rarely had their surgery completed by the doctors and were simply released back into the army following the sex change.
8 Marion Sims
Marion Sims conducted a huge number of procedures and experiments on woman in the 19th century as he looked to find a way of treating vesicovaginal fistula. Despite his good intentions, Sims would carry out forced operations on women who were slaves, thus giving them no way to give informed consent. The woman involved would face multiple operations and surgery, without the aid of an anesthetic. While much of the data gathered from the experiments became useful to medicine, it is widely condemned because of the unethical way it was obtained and because a vulnerable section of society was treated so badly.
7 Wendell Johnson
Wendell Johnson was responsible for a psychological experiment that has since been dubbed the Monster Study by psychologists because of its highly unethical treatment of participants. With the help of his graduate student Mary Tudor, Wendell chose orphans from an Ohio orphanage and subjected them to various treatments in an attempt to prove his theory that stuttering was a learned behavior. This primarily involved giving some of the children severe negative feedback when they did not speak perfectly while others were given positive feedback at all times. The experiment, which did not have any informed consent from those taking part, left many of the children suffering from psychological problems and some suffered from speech problems throughout their lives.
6 Albert Kligman
Over the course of several months between 1965 and 1966, Albert Kligman carried out a number of forced procedures of prisoners in partnership with the US Army and some pharmaceutical companies. Kligman’s experiments involved injecting 75 different prisoners with varying doses of Agent Orange, a herbicide that the US military wanted to use in warfare, to test the effects it would have on humans. This caused chronic skin conditions for the prisoners, many of which continued to experience problems for long periods after the experiment had ended. The symptoms included cysts, pustules and large sores appearing on the body.
5 Oliver Wenger
Oliver Wenger was chiefly responsible for coming up with the study protocols, as well as the aims and objectives of the Tuskegee syphilis experiment. Over the course of several years, African American males from poor and uneducated backgrounds were tricked into getting diagnosed for syphilis through promises of free treatments. They were then either given highly dangerous and toxic treatments without consent, or left untreated, allowing the disease to spread and cause severe health problems. The men were never told they had syphilis during the entire experiment, instead those involved simply told them they were receiving free medical treatment for unspecified problems. By the end of the study, many of the unwilling participants had died from complication with the medicine or from problems arising from the disease itself.
4 Herta Oberheuser
Herta Oberheuser was a Nazi doctor who worked at the Ravensbrueck concentration camp. While she took part in a number of gruesome experiments on those who had been imprisoned in the camp, she is primarily responsible for the bone grafting, muscle and nerve experiments. These horrendous acts would generally involve the removal of limbs, surgically removing bones, and transplanting body parts into other test subjects. This was all done to test how muscles, nerves and bones could regenerate after injury and how successful transplants could be for use in the German army. This left the prisoners at the concentration camp with permanent mutilations, while others were killed during the procedures that were carried out without anesthetic. Others were simply killed after surgery by doctors using lethal injections.
3 Grigory Mairanovsky
Grigory Mairanovsky is a Russian biochemist and doctor who was tasked with leading the Soviet Union’s attempts to create a poison that was tasteless and odorless and therefore, would not be easily detected by enemies. Mairanovsky would take prisoners from the Gulags and transport them to a secret poison laboratory, known as Laboratory 1 or The Chamber, where they would undergo horrific experimentation. This usually involved injecting them or exposing them to chemicals and poisons such as mustard gas and ricin, with the prisoners completely unaware of their fate. It is unknown how many prisoners were killed because of the experiment, but Mairanovsky was able to successfully create a poison called C-2 that was incredibly deadly.
2 Eugene Saenger
During the Cold War, both the US and Soviet governments conducted large amounts of research on nuclear radiation to determine exactly how much it would take to injure and kill humans. This was necessary because of the constant threat of a nuclear catastrophe. One of the leading experiments was led by Eugene Saenger. Over a ten-year period, the radiologist conducted experiments on a large number of patients who were seeking treatment for cancer. Choosing vulnerable members of society, Saenger then tricked them into going through whole body radiation to experience high levels of radiation without ever telling them the real reason behind the study. The side effects caused by the radiation were wide ranging, from nausea and disorientation to the almost complete destruction of a patient’s white blood cells and death.
1 Sigmund Rascher
Sigmund Rascher, along with Ernst Holzlohner, was responsible for the freezing experiments that were conducted under the Nazi regime during World War II. The details of the grisly experiments first came to light at the Doctors’ Trials. Rascher was concerned with finding ways of combatting freezing temperatures that German forces were experiencing on the Eastern Front. The tests included submerging prisoners in ice cold water for hours at a time, forcing them to endure extreme weather outdoors with no protective clothing. In other experiments, captured troops would be partially frozen and then thrown into boiling water in an attempt to rewarm them.