Colonel Stafford Warren
In 1953 the Nuremberg
Code was developed as a result of atrocities committed in the guise of
"medical research" during the second world war. In 1994 Eileen
Welsome, a reporter for the Albuquerque Tribune, was awarded the Pulitzer
Prize, for her investigative reporting of a dark episode in American
History relating to secret medical experiments. Her subsequent book
"The Plutonium Files: America's Secret Medical Experiments In The
Cold War" published by the Dial Press in 1999 is a fascinating, as
well as riveting,
narrative regarding this American experience.
||During the 1940s a leading participant in the performing
of potentially lethal
medical research on unsuspecting military personnel and hospitalized
patients was Army Colonel Stafford Warren, a Professor of Radiology at the
University of Rochester (New York) School of Medicine and Dentistry and
Chief of the Manhattan Project Medical Section.
|Col. Warren is shown to the right in the photograph above
as he boards the hospital ship USS Haven in 1946 en route to Operation
Crossroads at Bikini Atoll.
The historical revelations regarding human experimentation atrocities
committed by enemy physicians during WWII have focused on Dr. Shiro Ishii
Unit 731), and
Dr. Josef Mengele (Auschwitz Concentration Camp). Less well
known, but equally, depraved have been the activities of Dr. Fukujiro Ishiyama (Kyushu
University Imperial Hospital), Dr. Sigmund Rasher (Dachau Concentration
Camp) and Dr. Hiroshi Iwanami (Dublon Island, Truk).
The discovery that human experimentation had also been performed on
unsuspecting hospital patients in the United States by American
physicians during the war years,
well as recent times, has made it clear that some of the enemy
physicians had Americans to share in their infamy in performing experimentation
on captive human subjects.
Stafford Warren, in his capacities as a U.S. medical officer (radiologist)
and medical faculty member at the University of Rochester appears to have
had primary responsibility for the now infamous plutonium injections performed on
innocent patients at Strong Memorial
Hospital (Teaching Hospital of the University of Rochester) in 1945
along with Colonel
Hymer Friedell (also a M.D.). A top secret and constantly
guarded clandestine facility, the "Manhattan Annex" was constructed across
the street from the University of Rochester Medical School.
clandestine facility was connected by a tunnel to the medical school itself. This
after WWII , and
its activities were actively kept hidden from the public until over a
half-century later. By 1977 only one survivor, Jeanne Connell
remained, to tell the tale. That same year Connell, and the heirs of
the other human subjects, each received $400,000 from the U.S. government
with an official apology (O'Neill et al., Betrayal of Trust,
People Magazine, May 5, 1997).
The Strong Memorial Hospital and the University of Rochester School of
Medicine and Dentistry's
notes that in March 1943 President Valentine, of Strong Memorial Hospital,
summoned Dr. Stafford Warren to a luncheon conference with Major General
Leslie Groves and Colonel J. C. Marshall. At this meeting it was
decided that Dr. Warren would be responsible for the medical care and
protection, against health hazards of all individuals who were to be working
on the Manhattan Project for the development of the atomic bomb.
The need for knowledge regarding
the effects of plutonium on humans was information important to the
needs of the
United States during the 1940s. This was, however, no justification to
commit crimes against humanity in order to gain this knowledge as many
individuals would have willingly volunteered for such studies if they has
with informed consent and responsible overview.
||Standing as a dramatic and proud antithesis
to the actions of Col. Stafford Warren was
Major Walter Reed who
established the United States Army Yellow Fever Commission, in
Havana in 1900. When Major Reed asked for volunteers to be
bitten by mosquitoes laden with yellow fever full disclosure of
risk, including possible death, was provided to those who
Some of the first to step forward as volunteers to be bitten by infected
mosquitoes were physicians Jesse Lazear and nurse Clara Maass who sadly did
not survive from their self-inflicted yellow fever. The sacrifice of
these medical professionals was groundbreaking in
the annals of self-sacrifice and in the establishing a moral compass for informed consent by
ethical health professionals.
It needs to be noted that, in contradistinction to the yellow fever volunteers, none of the
physicians involved in the plutonium experiments ever used themselves as
One of the great moments of the Clinton
administration were the actions of Secretary of the Department of Energy,
Hazel O'Leary, and her official response upon learning about "America's
Nuclear Shame" (term coined by CNN's Bernard Shaw).
Her integrity and leadership did not allow the government to resort to
the, not infrequently practiced, Washington "damage control" protocol .
Welsome's delving into the persona of Stafford Warren has allowed us to
see him as an "opportunist" having "no ethical qualms" whose "bravado masked
a cunning intelligence." Her diligence and persistence resulted in the confrontation
with the United States Department of Energy in 1993 as noted above.
In addition to wearing a cap as a Manhattan Project Officer Colonel
Stafford Warren was, at the same time, also involved in the development of
radiographic media at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and
Dentistry. He, and his associates Strain and Plati, developed the
myelographic oil-ester Pantopaque®
for which they received U.S. Patent 2,348,231 . This was issued on May 9, 1944.
The Parisian Report
chronicles the tale of this saga and the Burton Report
documents the relationship of Pantopaque®
to the neuropathologic entity "adhesive arachnoiditis." In
one of medicines great mysteries Pantopaque®,
which was never shown to be "safe",
was initially introduced for use in small amounts (1-2cc) for locating spinal
tumors. It next (mysteriously) appeared on the world scene for high volume (12-15cc),
routine use, in diagnosing disc herniations.
A number of clinicians have published on the dangers of oil
myelography. In 1942 Van
Wagenen (a neurosurgical colleague of Warrens, at the University of Rochester)
as causing chemical meningitis in
30 patients where "space-displacing masses within the spinal canal
were suspected." Despite this important information Pantopaque®
was subsequently distributed to the United States military by Warren, under circumstances inconsistent with American Medical Association principles
as well as Food and Drug Administration requirements.
Only minimal effort
has ever been directed to documenting the numbers of military personnel who became disabled
following this oil myelography and subsequent spinal surgery during the period 1940-1985. How
many military veterans experienced a Pantopaque®
myelogram during this period is simply not
known but, there are clearly many thousands of veterans whose
lives were destroyed by this experience.
Should the United States Veteran's Administration and the Surgeon
General's office ever
initiate a inquiry into these particular events it would, most certainly, open
up another important chapter in
American medical history. Because we have not yet endeavored to learn from
this particular past experience many unfortunate individuals in the
to suffer from similar problems and human experimentation on
unsuspecting patients in the United States has continued unaccompanied by