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Veterans at Risk: The Health Effects of Mustard Gas and Lewisite
was to be sent into the chamber without the Medical Officer's approval, "malingerers and psychoneurotics" were handled by "minimizing their symptoms and sending them into the chamber."
In a section on physical examination and requirements, warnings are given against mistaking certain physical ailments caused by "physical unfitness" for gas manifestations. The ailments listed are conjunctivitis, laryngitis, nausea, and shock, all of which were well-known symptoms of mustard agent or Lewisite poisoning. However, no instructions for distinguishing these symptoms as real gas manifestations are given in this summary report, or anywhere else the committee could find. Evidence that such distinctions were possibly made inappropriately was provided by an individual veteran's NRL record sent to the committee. This record shows a notation of mild laryngitis after the third time in the chamber; no such notation was recorded prior to the first chamber trial. Yet, the person was sent back into the chamber two more times and the final record notes "severe laryngitis." As noted in Chapters 3 and 7, occurrence of this symptom would have been a clear indication of cumulative inhalation exposure beyond 100 Ct.
Physical examinations, according to the NRL summary, included a complete blood count, urinalysis, and body temperature. Blood counts were to be redone after a cumulative Ct of 4,800. Yet cursory examination of the very few individual records submitted to the committee indicates that blood counts may not have been repeated in all such cases.
This short summary is not exhaustive of all the information available, nor does it cover field tests and other procedures. It is an attempt to portray the atmosphere in which the experiments were done and to describe the attitudes brought to these experiments by the military research establishment. Some would argue that this description has no place in a report of a committee charged to survey scientific literature. Further, it was a war, a worldwide emergency that understandably required certain goals to take precedence over others, possibly to the detriment of sound medical research practices concerning individual well-being. In fact, the authors of the NRL summary state their belief that the men coming through their program benefited from their experience and were better prepared than most to confront the realities of gas warfare.
It may also be fair to argue that no formalized set of rules, carrying the weight of law, existed in 1942 to govern the treatment of human subjects. However, a Department of the Army Inspector General's report in 1975 documented how these patterns of neglect of human subjects, established during WWII, continued through the 1950s and 1960s, well beyond the immediacy of wartime concerns (Taylor and Johnson, 1975; see also Chapter 3 and Appendix F). These patterns even