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Cincinnati Radiation Experiments

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.   

October 11, 2007 - Posted by | Books, Cincinnati, History | , , , , , ,


  1. A 27-year Cincinnati resident, I share your concerns about similar horrific experiments occurring – both today and tomorrow. Keep bringing reminders like this to our attention.

    Comment by Newton | October 12, 2007

  2. Thanks for the comment. This kind of thing is always possible anywhere in America or in the world.

    Comment by Neil Aquino | October 13, 2007

  3. Your facts are of course twisted. General hospital is the hospital that poor people go to. Cincinnati has many others. Christ, Jewish, Good Sam, St Francis. but non emergency indigents would be sent to General. All participants signed waivers with information about what was going on. This was before the government mandated waivers for this type of procedures! All participants already had cancer which at the time a great percentage of was fatal. Tyrone Yates is definitly no authority on medicine. He was by far one of the worst, uninformed, race baiting councilmen Cincinnati has ever had. In retrospect of the ethics of 30 years after it does look suspect but the charge of criminal and deliberate is far from proven.

    Comment by Mick | October 15, 2007

  4. Mick–Thank you for your comment. At least you admit that in retrospect the ethics don’t look right. That might be a first step to a number of other facts you are missing and that you get wrong in your comment. Those folks were were lab rats without knowing it and it was only because they were poor and powerless.

    Comment by Neil Aquino | October 15, 2007

  5. I was wondering how to find out the names of the VICTIMS from these Radiation Experiments at Cincinnati General Hospital. My Grandmother had lung cancer and received radiation treatments there around 1970. I lived with her at the time and she vomited a lot and received severe burns. She died in 71, a miserable death. Maybe she just received treatments and was not experimented on. I asked her only surviving daughter to check into it when we first heard about it in the 90’s, but she didn’t want to. BUT I sure would like to know. Not for money, it is too late for all that, but just to know. If you have any info on the names or how I could find out I would appreciate it. Her name was Dorothy Neubacher.

    Comment by Debbie Green | March 3, 2008

  6. […] my own experience as a city council aide in Cincinnati, Ohio, I read the files of black cancer patients who had intentionally been given extra doses of radiation to see how they would […]

    Pingback by People Believe Wild Things Because Nothing’s Horrible It Can’t Be True « Texas Liberal | June 23, 2008

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