Veteran Class Certified in Drug 'Guinea Pig' Case
(CN) - A federal judge certified a class action lawsuit that could send thousands of Vietnam veterans into treatment for diseases they contracted during Cold War-era drug and chemical experiments.
The Army and the CIA, with the help of Nazi scientists, used veterans as human guinea pigs for testing the effects of up to 400 types of drugs and chemicals, including mescaline, LSD, amphetamines, barbiturates, mustard gas and nerve agents, the Vietnam Veterans of America and individual soldiers claimed in a 2009 class action .
Veterans say the government was trying to develop and test substances that could trigger mind control, confusion, euphoria, altered personality, unconsciousness, physical paralysis, illogical thinking and mania, among other effects.
The experiments in Army compounds at Edgewood Arsenal and Fort Detrick, Md., allegedly left many veterans with debilitating health problems for decades.
The government has since refused to give them proper medical care, according to the lawsuit.
On Friday, U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken granted the plaintiffs class action status, potentially opening up thousands of veterans to three types of relief.
The trial could force government agencies to notify participants of the known health impacts of the substances they received, mandate health care for those who have suffered diseases and guarantee due process for veterans denied benefits.
The Department of Veterans Affairs has denied between 97 and 99 percent of all disability or death claims arising out of the alleged exposures, according to the plaintiff's law firm, Morrison & Foerster.
The veterans do not seek money damages.
The class action will include: "All current or former members of the armed forces, or in the case of deceased members, the personal representatives of their estates, who, while serving in the armed forces, were test subjects in any human Testing Program that was sponsored, overseen, directed, funded, and/or conducted by the Department of Defense or any branch thereof, including but not limited to the Department of the Army and the Department of the Navy, and/or the Central Intelligence Agency, between the inception of the Testing Programs in approximately 1922 and the present. For the purposes of this definition, 'Testing Program' refers to a program in which any person was exposed to a chemical or biological substance for the purpose of studying or observing the effects of such exposure," according to the 59-page order.
Up to 100,000 veterans may fall into this category, according to estimates by Morrison & Foerster.