The New York Times today reported the death of Dr. Eugene Saenger of Cincinnati. He was 90.
Dr. Saenger was a radiologist and expert on nuclear medicine who did Cold War era radiation experiments on poor folks and black folks in Cincinnati between 1960 and 1971.
While a University of Cincinnati English Professor named Martha Stephens made an effort to publicize this issue in the early 1970′s, the experiments gained the most attention in Cincinnati in the 1990′s. This was when other government Cold War experiments elsewhere in the country came under a renewed scrutiny.
In 2002, Professor Stephens published a book on this subject called The Treatment.
What Dr. Saenger did, was give people with cancer radiation over their entire bodies instead of just where the cancer was located. This despite evidence that existed at the time that such treatment would do more harm than good.
The real purpose of the “treatments” was to determine how much radiation a solider could take before being disabled.
In the mid 1990′s I worked for a Cincinnati City Council member named Tyrone Yates. Tyrone and I read some of the files from the experiments. It was horrible stuff. Tyrone held hearings on the issue at Cincinnati City Hall.
About 90 people got this radiation bombardment. Two-thirds of these people were black and, it seems, all were poor or working class people. The experiments were done at Cincinnati’s General Hospital. That facility is now the University of Cincinnati Hospital.
As someone who lived in Cincinnati for 18 years and who has some knowledge of Cincinnati’s history, it is entirely believable that this could have taken place in the 1960′s and that nobody in authority would have stopped the process.
And, as anyone with any grounding in human nature or American history could tell you, something like this could easily happen again in our country.
I keep near my computer a list of people I knew from my 18 years in Cincinnati who have died since I moved to Houston in 1998. With a recent addition, the list is now up to 18.
Since I was involved in politics in Cincinnati, some get write-ups in the paper when they die. One man I knew fairly well, John “Four Days” Mirlisena, was an elected official who just a few years before would have been well-recognized on the streets of Cincinnati.
Others are people I knew in my private life. I get word of their deaths through friends.
This might appear morbid. Maybe it is morbid. Yet I don’t see it as such.
Bryan said—”The individual is but an atom, he is born, he acts, he dies….”
I go with that to an extent. We are here, we have our time and then we are gone.
I find this list helps me focus on the importance of the relationships I have in life. It helps me accept the reality of change.
I find it helps me accept life in general.