U.S. Guilty in Man’s Death During Secret Drug Testing
A federal judge today found that the U.S. government negligently caused the death of a mental patient used as a “guinea pig” for mind-altering drugs in secret Army experiments during the 1950s.
Calling it “a sad episode in the conduct of the U.S. government,” District Judge Constance Baker Motley awarded $702,044 to the estate of Harold Blauer, a mental patient “who died in 1953 as a guinea pig in an experiment to test potential chemical warfare agents for the U.S. Army.”
The judge’s 106-page opinion said Blauer died as a result of one in a series of mescaline derivatives he was given at the New York State Psychiatric Institute.
“Rather than admit its role in Blauer’s death, the government covered up its involvement in the affair,” Motley said, noting that her opinion “is issued today rather in the 1950s when the death occurred.”
Blauer’s former wife brought suit against the state and reached an out-of-court settlement, but it wasn’t until 1975 that it was disclosed the Army had supplied the drugs used on Blauer.
Later, Elizabeth Barrett, one of Blauer’s daughters, launched a series of suits against the government as well as numerous federal and state employees. Three separate suits were consolidated and went to trial before Motley last October.