Consulting in the Public Interest

U.S. Reaches $4.8 Million Settlement With Radiation Victims

by Melissa B. Robinson
Associated Press Writer

November 19, 1996

Washington (AP) - The government has agreed to pay $4.8 million for conducting Cold War-era radiation experiments on unwitting victims, the Energy Department said today.

The money will go to one woman who took part in the experiments and the families of 11 other people who have died.

Energy Secretary Hazel O'Leary announced the settlement in New York.

"This settlement goes to the very heart of the moral accountability the government owes it citizens," O'Leary said in prepared remarks. "We are grateful to the families for the tough lessons they have taught us about trust, responsibility and accountability between the government and the people."

The agreement represents the final settlement in 12 of 18 human radiation experiment cases involving the injection of plutonium and uranium, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Nine of the 12 took place at the University of Rochester in upstate New York.

The U.S. government sponsored thousands of human radiation experiments between 1944 and 1974 that included injecting 18 hospital patients in New York, Illinois, California and Tennessee with plutonium. The tests sprang from efforts to develop atomic weapons.

"The purpose of the research worker safety was laudable," Ruth Faden, head of an advisory panel on human radiation experiments appointed by President Clinton, said previously. "Unfortunately, the way they went about it was wrong."

The committee found that it was not uncommon for doctors to use patients as test subjects without their knowledge in the 1940s.

Doctors believe the deaths of the 11 deceased experiment victims were not related to the experiments.

The Clinton administration is drafting a report on human radiation experiments to be released within two months.

In addition to the 12 cases, another plutonium claim was settled earlier this summer. A handful of other plutonium claims are still being negotiated by the U.S. Energy and Justice departments.

"It's been one hell of an ordeal," said Luther Schultz of Geneva,N.Y., whose mother was injected with plutonium in 1945. Eda Schultz Charlton died at age 83 in 1985 but doctors are unable to say whether her health was affected by the experiment.

"It was a rotten thing to do," Schultz said today. "If people had been notified and knew what they were doing, it would be a different thing. But this was just picking people out and shooting poison into them I'm pretty bitter about that."

Copyright 1996 the Associated Press. -- All Rights Reserved

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