Against Their Will: The Secret History of Medical Experimentation on Children in Cold War America
By Allen M. Hornblum, Judith L. Newman, and Gregory J. Dober
266 pages. $27.00
Reviewed by Christopher Zoukis
According to Oswald Spengler, “Moral is a conscious and planned causality of conduct, apart from all particulars of actual life and character, something eternal and universally valid, not only without time but hostile to time and for that very reason ‘true.’” Spengler goes on, adding that “Every moral action is a piece of this sacrifice, and an ethical life-course is an unbroken chain of such sacrifices. Above all, the offering of sympathy, com-passion, in which the inwardly strong gives up his superiority to the powerless.”
What happens when educated, powerful people withhold sympathy and compassion toward the powerless? What happens when individuals set aside Spengler’s definition of morality and adopt the Jesuit philosophy that the end justifies the means? Answer: despicable events occur, events like those described in the difficult and frightening book by Allen M. Hornblum,Judith L. Newman, and Gregory J. Dober – Against Their Will. The book is difficult to read not because it’s dry and overly literary, but rather because it’s emotionally grueling. And it’s frightening because it demonstrates the ethical sinkhole into which humans can descend.
Against Their Will relates a true story, the story of children exploited as subjects in medical experiments. The medical experiments were not performed by psychotic Nazi physicians, like Dr. Mengele; they were performed by ruthless, single-minded American doctors of medicine who deluded themselves, believing they were pursuing reality, truth, undeviatingly to the end. And in their pursuit, they became monsters of the worst sort.