The University of California released a report about the experiments which were conducted on “healthy” prisoners. One of the researchers, Howard MaiBach, still works for the University.
The experiments took place in the 1960s and 1970s and were orchestrated by researchers William Epstein and Howard Maiback. The experiments which were conducted on at least 2,600 incarcerated men included injecting pesticides and herbicides into their veins.
Dan Lowenstein, the universities vice chancellor said “UCSF apologizes for its explicit role in the harm caused to the subjects, their families and our community by facilitating this research, and acknowledges the institution’s implicit role in perpetuating unethical treatment of vulnerable and underserved populations, regardless of the legal or perceptual standards of the time.”
Experiments included placing small cages containing mosquitos on to the subjects’ arms to examine “host attractiveness of humans to mosquitos” and to observe “direct penetrated of the proboscis by the appearance of blood” the report stated. There is little to no record of any of the men having medical conditions that could have been improved or treated from the experiments.
The report noted that Maibach and Esptein had trained under University of Pennslyvania dermatologist Albert Kligman, who conducted experiments in the 1950s to the 1970s. In 2019 his research at Philadelphia’s Holmesberg Prison to be “unethical and disrespectful of its subjects, many of whom were imprisoned Black men.”
There is no indication that the research conducted at UCSF was directed at Black men, the report said.
Epstein died in 2006 and Maibach has said “what I believe to be ethical as a matter of course forty or fifty years ago is not considered ethical today. I do not recall in any way in which the studies caused medical harm to the participants.”
Howard Maiback’s son Edward Maibach said his father was unable to respond to media enquiries after suffering a stroke on December 13th 2022.
Edward Maibach said his father tried to cooperate with the inquiry, conducted by the Program on Historical Reconciliation, but was not given access to documents used by the committee. He criticized the reports finding. “The committee treated its inability to find documentary evidence that most of the research conducted at Vacaville complied with contemporaneous requirements for human subject research as evidence that there was no compliance,” he wrote in a statement.
Maiback’s son wrote “Dr Maibach’s activities at Vacaville were known to, and endorsed by, UCSF administrators, including the UCSF ethicist.”
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