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Operation Whitecoat

2,000 Adventists participate in nearly 20-year U.S. Army medical experiments.


Matthew and Bill Cork chatted about Operation Whitecoat in an episode of Adventist History Extra. You can listen to it here:


Here's a snapshot of Operation Whitecoat:

 

WHAT IS OPERATION WHITECOAT?


Operation Whitecoat was a series of medical experiments conducted by the U.S. Army on approximately 2,000 Seventh-day Adventists (as conscientious objectors) from 1954 to 1973.



WHAT WAS THE PURPOSE OF OPERATION WHITECOAT?


Operation Whitecoat arrived as military medical researchers realized that they needed human test subjects to gather medical data that would be used to protect soldiers. This included data on biological warfare agents, discovering correct vaccine dosage and effectiveness, and the possible side-effects of various treatments.



WHAT WAS THE BACKGROUND THAT LED TO THE PROGRAM?


The U.S. military was deeply concerned about biological warfare and the effect it might have on soldiers and civilians alike. The first Whitecoat test was for Q fever, a newly discovered (at the time) and highly contagious bacteria that made for an ideal biological weapon (the U.S. military kept a supply ready for such a purpose). Whitecoat volunteers were exposed to Q fever to be understand the minimum dose required to infect people.



WAS IT SAFE?


While some volunteers had severe symptoms, none of the volunteers died and recent surveys show no sign of any lasting health problems.


The U.S. Army endeavored to follow the Nuremberg Code (1947), which was established in the wake of the Second World War (after the Allies became aware of the Axis powers' egregious medical experiments) and laid down ten standards nations had to follow to conduct human tests. These standards included the informed consent of the test subjects. Accordingly, the Army briefed Whitecoat volunteers and then gave them 24 hours to think about it before signing a consent form.



WHY DID IT END?


Operation Whitecoat ended when the U.S. Selective Service announced in January, 1973, that there would be no further draft calls. Thus the source of volunteers for the program dried up.


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