California university apologizes for ‘unethical’ experiments conducted on prisoners

A prominent California medical school has apologized for unethical medical experiments conducted in the 1960s and 1970s on at least 2,600 imprisoned men.

The experiments conducted at the California Medical Facility included putting pesticides and herbicides on the men’s skin and injecting it into their veins.

The experiments were reportedly conducted by Dr. Howard Maibach and Dr. William Epstein. The two dermatologists conducted the experiments on men at the prison hospital in Vacaville. Maibach still works at the university and Epstein died in 2006.

As reported by The San Francisco Chronicle, the university’s Program for Historical Reconciliation issued a report about the experiments earlier this month, apologizing for their role in “questionable informed consent practices.”

“UCSF apologizes for its explicit role in the harm caused to the subjects, their families and our community by facilitating this research, and acknowledges the institution’s implicit role in perpetuating unethical treatment of vulnerable and underserved populations — regardless of the legal or perceptual standards of the time,” Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Dan Lowenstein said in a statement, according to the Chronicle.

“We are still in the process of considering the recommendations and determining appropriate next steps,” the university added on Thursday. “As we do so, it will be with humility and an ongoing commitment to a more just, equitable and ethical future.”

Some of the experiments involved administering doses of pesticides and herbicides to the prisoners. Others included placing small cages with mosquitos close to the participants’ arms or directly on their skin to determine “host attractiveness of humans to mosquitos,” according to the Chronicle.

The experiments were ended in 1977 in accordance with state and federal law prohibiting such acts.




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