Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry

, Volume 21, Issue 2, pp 161–197 | Cite as




During the Second World War medical researchers around the USAinjected 18 hospital patients with radioactive plutonium in orderto learn its effects on the body. Two documents, a newspaperaccount and a university committee report, tell divergent storiesof the scientists and patients involved in that experiment. Thisarticle uses those documents – plutonium narratives– as a catalyst for exploring the problematicrepresentation of past human experimentation, assumptions of moralprogress in medical research, and the nature of informed consenttoday. Informed consent is shown to be an evolving process anddiscursive practice that cannot be understood apart from itshistorical and cultural embeddedness.


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1997

Authors and Affiliations

    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Social and Behavioral Science, Medical Anthropology ProgramUniversity of CaliforniaSan FranciscoUSA

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