Experiments Haunt University

WALTHAM, Mass.--Decades ago, researchers from the University came here to the Walter E. Fernald State School to feed retarded children radioactive isotopes in their breakfast cereal.

On Monday, members of a state task force investigating those experiments returned to Fernald to announce their findings: Harvard researchers involved in those experiments violated the "fundamental human rights" of their test subjects.

The task force's report, which details the use of radioactive materials in human subject research form 1943 to 1973, recommends that "all participants...should be compensated for any and all damage incurred as a result of the studies."

"The call for compensation stems form the findings that there were violations of basic rights in the research," said Frederick M. Misilo Jr. chair of the state Task Force to Review Human Subject Research.

At the same time, Misilo said the nutritionstudies conducted at Fernald in the 1940s and '50scaused "no significant health effects" to thetests' subjects.

Task force members said the report's findingsare based on independent scientific analyses ofthe Fernald data, not on examinations of formertest subjects.

The group said it will continue to investigatea series of four thyroid experiments and a nuclearfallout experiment. Task force members refused torule out the possibility that subjects in theseexperiments had suffered health effects.

Scientists from Harvard and MIT led the thyroidstudies. A Harvard Medical School assistantprofessor and a Harvard researcher conducted thenuclear fallout experiment.

Misilo said he was "particularly horrified" atthe nuclear fallout experiment in which Harvardscientists fed small doses of radioactive iodineto children aged one to 11 at the Wrentham, StateSchool in Wrentham, Mass.

The task forced recommended that the Fernaldtest subjects be entitled to federal benefits forany medical diagnoses and treatments related tothe experiments.

Documents included in the report as well asothers obtained by The Crimson show that the testswere led by the late Dr. Clemens E. Benda, who wasFernald's medical director at the time and also afaculty member at the Harvard Medical School.

The task force said it had contacted about halfof the 74 subjects of the nutrition experiments atFernald and only a handful of the more than 200people used in the thyroid and nuclear falloutstudies.

David White-Lief, a member of the task forceand chair of the Fernald Human Rights Committee,said Harvard and MIT should bear part of the costsof compensation.

"I think Harvard should pay," he said. "I thinkMIT should pay. I think the Commonwealth ofMassachusetts should pay. They violated the rightsof those people."

But Misilo and all other task force membersdeclined to say whether Harvard and MIT shouldcontribute to any compensation.