Native Alaskans Unknowingly
Subjected to Cold War Medical Experiments
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuter) - Native Alaskans unknowingly subjected to Cold War medical experiments by the U.S. Air Force should be compensated for the ordeal, an attorney who helped compile a report on the tests said Friday.

The report, prepared by an Anchorage law firm for Alaska's North Slope Borough, said the tests violated both the international Nuremberg Code and Alaska state law by failing to obtain subjects' informed consent.

In 1950s U.S. Air Force experiments, 121 residents of Inupiat Eskimo and Athabascan Indian villages in northern Alaska were given doses of radioactive iodine to examine thyroid glands and human adaption to the cold climate.

Many of those given iodine tests spoke little English and were told the iodine was medicine, according to the report.

Information about the experiments was not disclosed by the federal government until the 1990s.

Tim Petumenos, an Anchorage attorney who coordinated the report for the borough, said Friday that test subjects deserved payment for both the mental anguish caused in the experiments' aftermath and any possible resulting medical problems. He said no figure had yet been put on the compensation but added, "We're hopeful that the Air Force will sit down with us to figure something out."

Native elders in the North Slope Borough -- the sparsely populated Minnesota-sized local government district north of Alaska's Brooks Range -- have feared for their health since they learned the truth of the experiments, Petumenos said.

The study commissioned by the North Slope Borough and issued this week found one woman developed thyroid cancer, he said.


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Information Provided by:

Leo Chavez, Jr.
cchavez@Colorado.EDU
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