Fetal tissue researchers feeling put out over #PPSellsBabyParts scandal

The road to Hell, they say, is paved with good intentions. This is particularly true in medicine where the desire to make life better for many people often leads of a multitude of individual horrors. Most Americans are not familiar with the Tuskegee Experiments where the US Public Health Service, from 1932 until 1972, monitored a group of nearly 600 black men who had syphilis and deliberately didn’t treat them because the researchers wanted to document the course of the disease. Some 250 of the men were diagnosed with syphilis when they received induction physicals during World War II and the Public Health Service intervened to keep the men from being treated.


The Public Health Service wasn’t limited to victims in the United States. Between 1946 and 1948, the Public Health Service with additional funding to local entities by the National Institutes of Health, deliberately infected several hundred people (soldiers, prostitutes, prisoners, and mental patients) with syphilis in order to observe the progress of the disease.

While many are familiar with the more horrific medical experiments by the Japanese Army’s Unit 731 and various Nazi doctors, some of the Nazi experiments sound eerily familiar. In 1945, 74-year old Claus Schilling was tried by a US military tribunal for war crimes committed at Dachau.

Schilling was not some random sadist. He was a prominent medical researcher and had held significant posts at prestigious institutes. From 1905 until 1935 he was director of tropical medicine at the Robert Koch Institute. His specialty was malaria. In 1936, he moved to Italy to help the Italian army develop malaria treatments to protect its soldiers serving in Ethiopia. He received funding from the German government and used psychiatric patients for his subjects. When Dachau opened for business he returned home. For subjects he chose primarily Polish priests who were exempt from work details. They were infected with malaria and then various cures tried on them. This was not random sadism. Schilling was really trying to find a cure for what is still a very serious disease. But there was ‘wastage’ and ‘collateral damage.’


Malaria experiments on about 1,200 people were conducted by Dr. Klaus Schilling between 1941 and 1945. Schilling was personally ordered by Himmler to conduct these experiments. The victims were either bitten by mosquitoes or given injections of malaria sporozoites taken from mosquitoes. Different kinds of treatment were applied including quinine, pyrifer, neosalvarsan, antipyrin, pyramidon, and a drug called 2516 Behring. I performed autopsies on the bodies of people who died from these malaria experiments. Thirty to 40 died from the malaria itself. Three hundred to four hundred died later from diseases which were fatal because of the physical condition resulting from the malaria attacks. In addition there were deaths resulting from poisoning due to overdoses of neosalvarsan and pyramidon. Dr. Schilling was present at my autopsies on the bodies of his patients.”

As the Center for Medical Progress continues releasing video of the horror that is trade in baby body parts, some researchers are feeling the heat.

In a small, unadorned office tucked amid a maze of labs within Boston Children’s Hospital, Emi Takahashi pores over computerized 3-D images of fetal brains she has scanned.

The Harvard neuroscientist has conducted the painstaking work of examining fetal brain tissue since 2008, a field considered one of the most important avenues of medical research. If scientists can better understand how a human brain develops in its earliest stages, researchers say, they may eventually pinpoint the origins of neurological disorders such as autism, epilepsy, even schizophrenia.

Takahashi used to receive specimens directly from the pathology departments of local hospitals after fetuses had been aborted or otherwise died in utero, but she said it has become more difficult in recent years to collect the samples, as hospitals instituted stringent rules that require reams of time-consuming paperwork. Takahashi said she is afraid the supply could dwindle even more — “Even now, we’re always short” — because of the controversy.

Meanwhile, at Boston Children’s Hospital, Takahashi hopes her research will someday allow doctors to identify and treat developmental disorders at earlier stages. She expressed incredulity that research like hers is entangled in this country’s firestorm over abortion.

“For me,” she said, “it’s purely a scientific issue, not a moral one.”


No matter what Dr. Takahashi wishes to believe, her research has a moral dimension. While one can easily equate fetal tissue derived from spontaneous abortions or miscarriages to the tissue harvested from cadavers, the use of fetal material from abortion is, if you acknowledge the obvious fact that a fetus is alive, no different from any number of experiments Nazi doctors carried out on live and involuntarily recruited subjects. It is quite difficult to see why her research data should be any less tainted, and treated any differently, that medical data obtained from any other unethical source.

The data is one thing. But what to do about the researchers. None of the Tuskegee or Guatemala researchers were ever prosecuted or, as far as I can discern, suffered any negative repercussions. In 1945, a different attitude existed.

Ultimately, as the nation comes to grips with just how horrific abortion is we will have to have the equivalent of a “Nazi Doctors Trial” or a “Truth Commission” to expose abortion, its practitioners and its allies, and to see that they are punished and the victims of abortion memorialized. Dr. Takahashi will probably deny from the prisoner’s dock that she did anything wrong but common human decency and morality say otherwise.



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