December 28

1962: Dr. Chester Southam injected live cancer cells into 22 elderly patients

Dr. Chester Southam injected live cancer cells into 22 elderly patients at Jewish Chronic Disease Hospital in Brooklyn. After being rebuffed by his institution, Sloan-Kettering, he convinced Dr. Emanuel Mandel at Jewish Chronic Disease. He sought to learn whether people who were debilitated by cancer could reject cancer cells. None of the patients were informed about the risks — and were never informed that the experiment involved injecting live cancer cells. Several doctors told Southam they did not want their patients experimented on — but he used them anyway.

Three whistleblowers — Drs. Avir Kagan, David Leichter and Perry Fersko — refused to participate in the experiment. They complained to the NYS Board of Regents and to a hospital board member, William Hyman, who was a lawyer. Hyman accused Drs. Southam and Mandel of acting like Nazi doctors: “I don’t want Nazi practices of using human beings as experimental guinea pigs.” The whistleblowers resigned their position, and went public — which proved to be most effective. State attorney General Louis Lefkowitz who read about Southam’s research via the media, accused him of fraud and unprofessional conduct and demanded that the Board of Regents suspend his medical license. Lefkowitz wrote:

Every human being has an inalienable right to determine what shall be done with his own body. These patients then had a right to know the contents of the syringe: and if this knowledge was to cause fear and anxiety or make them frightened, they had a right to be fearful and frightened and thus say NO to the experiment. (Oxford Textbook of Clinical Research Ethics, 2008)

The NYS Board of Regents found Dr. Southam guilty of fraud, deceit, and unprofessional conduct, and revoked his license for one year. However, two years later, the American Cancer Society elected him President; once again, demonstrating that the medical establishment does not consider violations of medical ethics an impediment to career advancement.
(Hornblum, New York Post, 2013)

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