It is understandable that reports about radiation experiments in the United States following World War II have generated concern among many Americans about the use of radiation (``Dirty Atomic Secrets'' editorial, Dec. 27). Was there a callous disregard for the rights of people who were studied? Who ordered the experiments, and why? Much more needs to be learned; a White House task force looking into the experiments has made a good start toward getting the full story.
From my perspective as a physician who practices nuclear medicine and uses radiation to diagnose and treat patients, the dominant issue is whether people who administered the experiments provided full disclosure to and got the consent of the people who were studied. If there was no informed consent, the studies were a violation of basic human rights that cannot be excused as some aberration of the cold war.
It would be tragic if events that took place years ago were to confuse and frighten people to the point that medical care and other beneficial applications of radiation are curtailed. Nuclear medicine is now an essential feature of every large hospital. Man-made radioactive materials have brought advances in every field of medicine.
In judging the early experiments with radiation, it should be remembered that without radioactive tracer techniques of the kind that were used in studies at a number of university hospitals over the years, the diagnosis and treatment of disease would not have reached their present state of development. Conrad E. Nagle, MD, Troy, Mich. Former President, American College of Nuclear Physicians
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