For more than 50 years, the military subjected some of its members to biological and chemical tests without their informed consent. Next summer, they will have their day in court.
According to an article by Martha Quillin in The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.), between 1922 and 1975, the U.S. Government—by its own admission—subjected as many as 100,000 service members to hundreds of different drugs, chemicals, and biological agents. The soldiers had volunteered for the tests, but most of them were never told what they were being exposed to or what risks existed.
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), in the 1980s, the National Academies of Science (NAS) claimed that the testing substances caused no long-term physical harm—except for large doses of mustard gas, to which some veterans had been exposed.
In 2004, the NAS revised its statement, saying that veterans may suffer post-traumatic stress disorder resulting from “perceived exposure to biochemical warfare agents.” The VA advised any veterans who believe they were exposed to harmful elements to get in touch with their health care provider or the local VA environmental health coordinator.
- The judge who certified the class action lawsuit is U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken of the Northern District of California.
- The defendants in the case include the Department of Defense, the Army, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). These agencies worked together to coordinate and carry out the tests.
- The plaintiffs are upwards of 100,000 current and former service members who were subjected to chemical or biological testing between 1922 and 1975, when the military claims to have ended human experimentation.
- The case is Vietnam Veterans of America, et al. v. Central Intelligence Agency, et al., Case No. C-09-0037 CW, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California. It will go to trial in the summer of 2013.
The lawsuit seeks to dismiss the oath of secrecy that soldiers say that they had to swear regarding the testing in which they participated. Furthermore, plaintiffs are requesting that the court compel the government to provide the health care it promised to the test participants when they agreed to the testing. No monetary damages are sought because the government has immunity from most damage claims made by members of the military.
“This action chronicles a chilling tale of human experimentation, covert military operations, and heretofore unchecked abuses of power by our own government,” the lawsuit avers.
An attorney representing the veterans says that the whole purpose of many of the tests was to determine the maximum dosage of various drugs, chemicals, and biological agents that could be administered without killing the recipient. Especially during the Cold War years, the U.S. Government was seeking ways to:
- Get spies to talk during interrogations; and
- Incapacitate large numbers of people without killing them, in many cases allowing them to become hypnotized, paralyzed, confused, less productive, as well as to experience other effects.
The proof includes documents detailing how veterans were exposed to mustard gas, Sarin, phosgene gas, Thorazine, LSD, amphetamines, barbiturates, and various other substances—in some cases, 10 or more times the known tolerance amount. The government responded to the lawsuit claiming that the experiments did not cause any long-term harm; the judge said that the government’s own documents state otherwise.
The Louisville class action lawyers at Gray and White Law recommend that you contact them if you believe you were one of these test subjects—or if you have been the victim of any wrongdoing by a large organization and are probably not alone in your plight. Call 502-210-8942 or toll free at 888-450-4456 and set up a FREE, no-obligation, confidential consultation to determine if you should pursue a class action lawsuit in Kentucky.