Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Against Their Will: The Secret History of Medical Experimentation on Children in Cold War America” as Want to Read:
Against Their Will: The Secret History of Medical Experimentation on Children in Cold War America
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Against Their Will: The Secret History of Medical Experimentation on Children in Cold War America

3.67  ·  Rating details ·  127 ratings  ·  25 reviews
During the Cold War, an alliance between American scientists, pharmaceutical companies, and the US military pushed the medical establishment into ethically fraught territory. Doctors and scientists at prestigious institutions were pressured to produce medical advances to compete with the perceived threats coming from the Soviet Union. In Against Their Will, authors Allen H ...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published June 25th 2013 by St. Martin's Press
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Against Their Will, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Against Their Will

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.67  · 
Rating details
 ·  127 ratings  ·  25 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Against Their Will: The Secret History of Medical Experimentation on Children in Cold War America
This book would rate 3 1/2 stars, but I'm giving an extra one for the excellent (and extensive) bibliography and footnotes.

Since I've delved – more deeply than is wise if one doesn’t want to lose all faith in society – into the history of US eugenics programs and since I already knew about the dubious legacy of Drs. Freeman, Watts, and Bender from college psych classes, I didn't expect to find anything in this book to shock me. I was wrong. One has to wonder what sort of person can balance the
Aug 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, science
Don't read this book if you are sensitive to cruelty and ignorance.

It documents the experimentation on and medical treatment of people who had no rights or were unaware of their rights: prisoners, children in mental institutions, orphans, the poor and even trusting gullible educated adults.

The book includes testing of vaccines and medicines; radiation experiments; lobotomies, electroshock therapy and LSD "treatment" for mentally ill and/or mentally "disabled" people; use of non-approved drugs f
Jul 28, 2013 rated it liked it
There's a lot of really interesting information in this book, and it's a history that should be more well known. The writing in general is good, but the organization is bad and the writing is sometimes repetitive. Each experiment is also covered quite briefly, so be prepared to look for other books if particular issues grab you.

The title/cover is also a bit sensationalistic given how few experiments in the book actually had anything to do with the Cold War, and how much of it was devoted to othe
Jun 12, 2013 rated it liked it
Not exactly Cold War era. Not exactly constructed concisely in a coherent or unified way. That being said, good research, good documentation and gives a peek into some of the live's affected and effected by experimentation, government run medical programs and our history as people in the health field.
My heart goes out to those lives in whom I have benefitted from vaccinations, medical breakthroughs and practices. It is from their sacrifice of quality of life, or sacrifice of life without permis
Jul 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is a book that will make you think. What is the definition of human? When does the principle of the "greater good" prevail and who defines the term? What price are we willing to pay for the advancement of modern science and technology? The authors did an excellent job in this book exploring the motivations that drove researchers to use the methods they did and the bigger picture of a society that turned a blind eye. The book is divided into logical chapters by the types of experiments done ...more
Mike Pollack
Jun 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Good book, well as good as a book could be about the use of vulnerable children in medical research could be. As someone who as worked in the research field (non-interventional, observational) I found it to be a very fascinating book that provides good history and context to the standards for research ethics we us today. Three disappointments though 1) as one reviewer said- the book was a bit repetitive or could have been organized a bit better, 2) by the title I was assuming it was focusing on ...more
Diana H.
Feb 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
The title of this book intrigued me so much that I requested it through the Inter-library Loan program of my local library. When the book arrived, I started reading it immediately - but this book really made me angry.
How could the medical community use children as research guinea pigs? Why did no one stand up and say, "this is wrong?" What was so important that harming children most in need of protection became routine? It's really hard looking at what happened in these clinical trials and not a
High-impact in its catalog of dehumanizing medical research that exploited institutionalized, often disabled children for almost a century (as far as documentation presented here), and with a valuable list of source notes. The writing leaves a lot to be desired, some experiments are vaguely described, the authors often lapse into stigmatizing language of the sort they ostensibly deplore, and the higher-level arguments/analyses are weak or superficial -- therefore it earns a place in my "painful" ...more
May 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
A very interesting look at the experiments performed in the United States in the pursuit of vaccines, cures, studies, and race to invent/prevent possible biological weapons. Some truly horrible things have been done to our orphans, psychiatric patients, prisoners and unwitting participants. What do we do? Testing must be done, but never on those who are unable to make choices for themselves. Most of the testing has moved overseas where FDA and regulations do not reach. It is a sad business.
Paul Menn
Jan 04, 2021 rated it it was amazing
A chilling book about experiments performed on children, primarily the orphaned and mentally disabled. It was haunting and hard to read. The cold, clinical, detached depravity carried out in the name of science is heartbreaking.
Lori Wasson
Mar 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
What has happened in these institutions to those who don't have a terrible! Good to know all this and have awareness so this doesn't happen again. ...more
Nov 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
A very interesting book. Lots of things I never knew.
I understand the need for human subjects when it comes to medical testing, and the breakthroughs that were made because of some of this testing were historic, but the way it was conducted without permissions from relatives or parents or guardians of the children and adults institutuionalized at the time is unforgivable. Children and adults were often institutionalized because of the stigma attached to having a "feebleminded" or "problem" chil
Dec 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
One of the most disturbing books I have ever read. I knew about unethical psychological studies, the Tuskegee airmen 'experiments' and the forced sterilization programs targeting the poor in the south, but I had no idea about the experiments done on institutionalized children, pregnant mothers, radiation studies on infants, cruel studies on those with cerebral palsy... The litany of horrors presented here are well researched and thoroughly horrifying; on par with Japan's Project 731 and Nazi med ...more
Susan Bazzett-Griffith
Three stars-- possibly 3.5. There is a lot to like about this book-- the research is in depth and fascinating, the personal stories horrifying, and the lengths gone to cover up what occurred in medical research over the last century very disturbing. That said, the title is misleading to a degree. The book is much larger in scope than just the Cold War era, with history delved into as far back as the late 19th century. The history is important, and interesting to read; however, it takes away from ...more
Jun 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, non-fiction
Sadly, a terrible but necessary subject to discuss in America's recent past. I naively thought most of these atrocities happened in Europe during the Nazi regime, but unfortunately that is not the case. In fact, despite the creation and knowledge of the Nuremberg Code, many physicians felt that such restrictions did not apply to them or their research. Granted, the Cold War mentality is significantly to blame for many of these failures, as is an under-appreciation of handicapped human life, but ...more
Apr 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I wish everyone would read this. The true, sad history of human experimentation and eugenics - where? Nazi Germany, right? Nope... and if you think babies and developing nations are a much better substitute for asylums and orphanages or that doctors don't succumb to paternalism anymore you don't need to read it- you're part of the problem.

A very important, well-sourced book with the stories of real doctors and the lengths they went/go to in the name of science, including interviews with some who
H Wesselius
Nov 05, 2013 rated it it was ok
A large amount of information is collected and presented yet there is no coherent structure to the book. The mataerial lends itself to numerous topics; evolution of human rights, the history of modern medicine, the cold war, etc yet there is very little of this to be seen here and instead you have a recitation.
Pat Thelander
Aug 11, 2013 rated it liked it
For me - a very difficult read due to a personal level. It was rather intense, supporting many things I had suspected and revealed much more. Mixed emotions - damned if you do, damned if you don't. ...more
Sandy Grant
Jun 15, 2013 rated it did not like it
What a disappointment this book was. Great concept, very poor execution. It had very little to do with the cold war.
Patty G.
Aug 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
Very difficult book to read and finish. It's hard to believe this really happened. ...more
Science For The People
Featured on Science for the People show #241 on November 29, 2013, during an interview with author Allen Hornblum. ...more
Beth Shultz
Aug 07, 2013 rated it it was ok
Did not finish this. So disgusting what happened during the Cold War Era.
Jun 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
What an eye opener...all in the name of "medicine"! ...more
Chris Reilly
rated it really liked it
May 02, 2016
rated it liked it
Jul 28, 2013
rated it liked it
Jan 11, 2021
Susan Terry
rated it it was ok
May 01, 2013
Christopher Zoukis
rated it it was amazing
Jan 29, 2014
rated it liked it
Mar 28, 2014
rated it liked it
Aug 07, 2014
« previous 1 3 4 5 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Perfect Horse: the Daring U.S. Mission to Rescue the Priceless Stallions Kidnapped by the Nazis
  • Requiem Infernal (The Dark Coil)
  • Fire Caste (The Dark Coil)
  • Malleus (Eisenhorn #2)
  • There are No Children Here: The Story of Two Boys Growing Up in the Other America
  • Eye of Terror (Warhammer 40,000 Novels)
  • Xenos (Eisenhorn #1)
  • Golden in Death (In Death, #50)
  • The First Phone Call from Heaven
  • The One & Only
  • The Scarlet Thread
  • The Confessor (Gabriel Allon, #3)
  • Big Girl Small
  • One Kick (Kick Lannigan, #1)
  • Loyalty in Death (In Death, #9)
  • The Presence (T.J. Case #1)
  • Midnight in Austenland (Austenland, #2)
  • Presumed Guilty / Keeper Of The Bride
See similar books…

News & Interviews

Readers have a lot to look forward to this year! Just feast your eyes upon all of these debut books to check out and emerging authors to...
186 likes · 47 comments
“The message of Microbe Hunters was clear: Great men like Pasteur, Reed, Theobald Smith, and Paul Ehrlich were a rare breed. But for all their skill, training, and dogged pursuit of that deadly microbe or magical elixir, their mission was infinitely complex, the challenges multifaceted, and the trail of disease and death a daily occurrence.” 0 likes
“It should be understood that doctors did not want to damage their patients—as a profession they were sworn to do no harm—but if they committed dastardly acts, they were more easily pardoned if something positive had come of the exercise. Experiments on humans were usually excused if the results of the study were substantial, the process had an element of science to it, and the physicians were correct in their expectations. 19” 0 likes
More quotes…