A limited bibliography of the Federal Government-funded human radiation experiments

Health Phys. 1995 Dec;69(6):885-91. doi: 10.1097/00004032-199512000-00001.


From the early 1940's thousands of U.S. citizens have been the subjects of federally supported scientific experiments that involved the administration of ionizing radiation or radioactive substances. Recently, many questions have been raised regarding the nature, scientific value, and ethics of these experiments. Although the results of many of the early human experiments involving radiation have been crucial to the establishment of nuclear medicine, radiation therapy, and radiological protection standards, the underlying ethical basis for a small number of these studies is being questioned. A thorough analysis of these studies and their ethical basis is beyond the scope of this article. Rather, in order to quickly provide the health physics community with some of the available resources in the open literature, a list of bibliographic citations of the 47 studies primarily funded by the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) and other predecessors of the Department of Energy is presented and briefly summarized. A classification scheme for the human radiation experiments is also developed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bioethics
  • Biomedical Research
  • Federal Government
  • Female
  • Government Agencies*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nontherapeutic Human Experimentation
  • Pregnant Women
  • Radiation Effects*
  • Radiation, Ionizing*
  • Radioisotopes* / pharmacokinetics
  • Research / standards*
  • Research Subjects
  • Research Support as Topic
  • Risk Assessment
  • United States


  • Radioisotopes