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Sunday, July 14, 2024 | Back issues
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Army Must Notify|Its Human Guinea Pigs

(CN) - The Army cannot delay its duty to warn veterans subjected to Cold War-era drug experiments about potential health concerns, a federal judge ruled.

The ruling comes in Vietnam Veterans of America et al. v Central Intelligence Agency et al., a 2009 class action that claimed at least 7,800 soldiers had been used as guinea pigs in Project Paperclip.

Soldiers were administered at least 250 and perhaps as many as 400 types of drugs, among them Sarin, one of the most deadly drugs known, amphetamines, barbiturates, mustard gas, phosgene gas and LSD.

Using tactics it often attributed to the Soviet enemy, Uncle Sam sought drugs to control human behavior, cause confusion, promote weakness or temporary loss of hearing and vision, induce hypnosis, and enhance a person's ability to withstand torture, according to the complaint.

U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken certified the class in 2012, which could make thousands of veterans eligible for relief.

Though the defendants succeeded in tossing claims against Attorney General Eric Holder and the CIA, the Department of Defense and Department of the Army are still on the hook.

In November 2103, Judge Wilken gave both sides some relief, granting the Defense Department, Army and CIA summary judgment on certain claims, and giving the plaintiffs summary judgment only on one claim against the Army.

"The court concludes that defendants' duty to warn test subjects of possible health effects is not limited to the time that these individuals provide consent to participate in the experiments," Wilken wrote then.

"Instead, defendants have an ongoing duty to warn about newly acquired information that may affect the well-being of test subjects after they completed their participation in research."

In an injunction accompanying the summary judgment order, Wilken directed the Army to provide such test subjects with newly acquired information that may affect their well-being that it has learned since its original notification, now and in the future as it becomes available."

In January, the remaining defendants moved to stay that injunction pending the resolution of the other claims.

The defendants claimed it will cost $8.8 million over 5 years to provide possible test subjects with the kind of notice the court ordered.

In a new order this week, Wilken found the defendants did not show that those costs will cause them irreparable harm - an element needed to stay the injunction.

"On the one hand, there are the expenses that will be incurred by defendants and, on the other, there is the very real possibility that the aging and adversely affected test subjects will not learn about health effects that could be mitigated if known," Wilken wrote in a 7-page order.

"Any expense incurred by defendants doing research and providing information to adversely affected test subjects, even if defendants should not have been required to incur those expenses, would not be wasted.

"However, lost time for the adversely affected test subjects could lead to irreversible health consequences."

Wilken also denied the defendants' request to extend their deadlines, and ordered them to submit a report of their efforts by Feb. 17.

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