The Hidden Tragedy of the CIA’s Experiments on Children

Published on Global Research.ca (first on Truthout), by H. P. Albarelli Jr. and Jeffrey S. Kaye, August 15, 2010.

… From early 1940 to 1953, Dr. Lauretta Bender, a highly respected child neuropsychiatrist practicing at Bellevue Hospital in New York City, experimented extensively with electroshock therapy on children who had been diagnosed with “autistic schizophrenia.” In all, it has been reported that Bender administered electroconvulsive therapy to at least 100 children ranging in age from three years old to 12 years, with some reports indicating the total may be twice that number. One source reports that, inclusive of Bender’s work, electroconvulsive treatment was used on more than 500 children at Bellevue Hospital from 1942 to 1956, and then at Creedmoor State Hospital Children’s Service from 1956 to 1969. Bender was a confident and dogmatic woman, who bristled at criticism, oftentimes refused to acknowledge reality even when it stood starkly before her. 

Despite publicly claiming good results with electroshock treatment, privately Bender said she was seriously disappointed in the aftereffects and results shown by the subject children. Indeed, the condition of some of the children appeared to have only worsened. One six-year-old boy, after being shocked several times, went from being a shy, withdrawn child to acting increasingly aggressive and violent. Another child, a seven-year-old girl, following five electroshock sessions had become nearly catatonic.

Years later, another of Bender’s young patients who became overly aggressive after about 20 treatments, now grown, was convicted in court as a “multiple murderer.” Others, in adulthood, reportedly were in and of trouble and prison for a battery of petty and violent crimes. A 1954 scientific study of about 50 of Bender’s young electroshock patients, conducted by two psychologists, found that nearly all were worse off after the “therapy” and that some had become suicidal after treatment. One of the children studied in 1954 was the son of well-known writer Jacqueline Susann, author of the bestselling novel “Valley of the Dolls.” Susann’s son, Guy, was diagnosed with autism shortly after birth and, when he was three years old, Dr. Bender convinced Susann and her husband that Guy could be successfully treated with electroshock therapy. Guy returned home from Bender’s care a nearly lifeless child. Susann later told people that Bender had “destroyed” her son. Guy has been confined to institutions since his treatment.

To their credit, some of Dr. Bender’s colleagues considered her use of electroshock on children scandalous, but few colleagues spoke out against her, a situation still today common among those in the medical profession. Said Dr. Leon Eisenberg, a widely respected physician and true pioneer in the study of autistic children, “[Lauretta Bender] claimed that some of these children recovered [because of her use of shock treatment]. I once wrote a paper in which I referred to several studies by [Dr. E. R.] Clardy. He was at Rockwin State Hospital – the back up to Bellevue – and he described the arrival of these children. He considered them psychotic and perhaps worse off then before the treatment.” (This writer could find no case where any of Bender’s colleagues spoke out against her decidedly racist viewpoints. Bender made it quite clear that she felt that African-Americans were best characterized by their “capacity for laziness” and “ability to dance,” both features, Bender claimed, of the “specific brain impulses” of African-Americans) … //

… Today, nearly 60 years beyond the horrors of Dr. Bender’s CIA-sponsored experiments on children, few people are aware that they were conducted. For most people, regardless of their awareness of the experiments, it is difficult to fathom how intelligent, highly educated physicians and scientists could partake in such brutal, uncaring, unethical and illegal experiments on children. What was the basis of their motivation? Was it the quest for some sort of elusive medical grail? Was it for economic gain? Or was it simply the result of a misguided search for knowledge that appeared so infinitely important that any sense of compassion and respect for human rights and dignity was cast aside in the name of a higher goal or good – a search at times so exhilarating with the sense that one is at the precipice of a momentous discovery that any semblance of respect for humankind was thrown aside?

One can easily come to any and all these conclusions simply by reading the professional papers of such scientists and researchers. Not once do any of these papers express concern for the subjects at hand or denote any pangs of conscience at violating any oaths, codes and statutes regarding patient rights, human rights or human dignity. That America’s most shameful period of human experimentation, the years 1950 through to about 1979, came on the heels of the making and adoption of the Nuremberg Codes only adds to the shame and hypocrisy. Today, human experimentation is still aggressively conducted by US government-sponsored and employed physicians and scientists regardless of those codes, which came directly out of the shocking madness of the Nazi era. That government-sponsored experimentation still occurs makes a mockery of any governmental efforts, however valid, to protect people from science run amok – and a nation that uses its young, its children, for such pursuits is a nation whose commitment to human rights and democratic principles should be seriously questioned and challenged. (full huge long text).

(The names Marion McGill and that of her sister Trudy, are pseudonyms. Marion is a highly respected attorney and college professor, who asked that her real name not be used in this article. All other names in this article are real).

Comments are closed.