A federal judge has ruled that the U.S. Army must notify all former servicemen of potentially severe side effects due to their participation in secret medical experiments during the Cold War.
U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken ruled in November that the Army must notify all veterans who participated in the controversial experiments. The Army sought to delay the notification citing a cost of nearly $9 million for the process. That delay request has been denied.
The court has said that the cost to the Army is inconsequential compared to the possible avoidance of suffering and further medical expenses that may await victims of the experiments.
"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, adding, “lost time for the adversely affected test subjects could lead to irreversible health consequences.”
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The secret experiments, conducted by the Army and CIA, were known as “Project Paperclip.” During the course of the experiments, subjects were administered various drugs including Sarin, LSD, mustard gas, and THC, the psychoactive element of marijuana. The goal of the experiments was to discover enhanced methods for waging war and control behavior as well as aid in interrogations.
The ruling may call to mind, for some, the plight of James Thornwell. Thornwell was an African-American soldier who was given LSD numerous times in the 1960s. He suffered for years from debilitating depression and was unable to hold a job. In 1980, two senators from South Carolina were able to secure for him over $600,000 in damages.
Thornwell died four years later at age 46.
The ruling may help others, like Tim Josephs, get more help from the Department of Veteran Affairs. The VA has been reluctant to help veterans who claim their medical woes are connected to the experiments. Josephs, who suffers from Parkinson’s disease and was a participant in the experiments, was eventually granted 40 percent disability. However, VA records show that as many as 90 percent of claims for chemical or biological contact are turned down completely.