March 21, 2019

Human Lab Rats: Science's Rotten Underbelly

by Science Vs

Background show artwork for Science Vs

During a golden age for scientific progress, a group of scientists were given free rein to do whatever they wanted to their human lab rats. We got new drugs, and learnt exciting new things. But some researchers took it too far... And what seemed like a scientific fantasy turned into one of the largest American science scandals. 

Check out the full transcript here:

Selected references: 

  • The 1976 report from the National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research 
  • Allen Hornblum’s book Acres of Skin (1998)
  • 2007 report from the Institute of Medicine Committee on Ethical Considerations for Research 
  • The Experimental Scurvy in Man 1969 study 


This episode was produced by Wendy Zukerman with help from Rose Rimler, Meryl Horn and Michelle Dang. Our senior producer is Kaitlyn Sawrey. We’re edited by Blythe Terrell and Caitlin Kenney. Fact checking by Michelle Harris and Michelle Dang. Mix and sound design by Peter Leonard. Music by Peter Leonard, Emma Munger and Bobby Lord. A huge thanks to all the researchers we got in touch with for this episode including Professor Karen Lebacqz, Michael Yesley. Also thanks to Sruthi Pinnamaneni, the Zukerman Family and Joseph Lavelle Wilson.