True MCU Super Soldier Experience: Tuskegee’s Parallel Explained

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Isaiah Bradley and the other Super Soldiers were experimented without their consent, reflecting unethical government experiences in real life.

Isaiah Bradley detailed the super soldier experience he and his comrades were subjected to The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and its story has parallels with unethical government experimentation in real life. Bradley’s experience with the United States government using him and dismissing him as a test subject is sadly not far from established history.

In episode 5, Bradley explains to Sam that he was transformed into a super soldier without his knowledge and without his consent. When the super soldier test subjects were given the serum that would transform them, they were told it was a tetanus vaccine. Most of the soldiers did not respond well to the serum, becoming unstable and eventually dying until only Isaiah Bradley was left. The Super Soldier Serum worked in Bradley, but he was jailed after rescuing captured Super Soldiers the government intended to bomb in order to hide the existence of the program. Bradley couldn’t even escape the program in prison, as they continued to experiment on him for decades while he was incarcerated.

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The haunting story of Isaiah Bradley draws on the long history of human experimentation by the US government and the military on unknown subjects. However, it specifically parallels one of the most egregious violations of scientific ethics: Tuskegee’s study of syphilis.

The study of Tuskegee’s syphilis

The study of Tuskegee's syphilis

In 1932, the US Public Health Service began an experiment to observe the course of untreated syphilis in black men living in Tuskegee, Alabama. A total of 600 poor black sharecroppers, 399 with syphilis and 201 without, were enrolled as test subjects. Participants were told that the federal government would provide them with free health care for their syphilis, but this was a deliberate deception. The public health department never informed them of their syphilis diagnosis or treated them for it.

Like Isaiah Bradley’s fictional account, government officials lied to the Tuskegee attendees about the medical treatment they were receiving. They pretended to treat them for syphilis while giving them placebos and other ineffective methods like mercury rubs. The original plan was to observe untreated syphilis for 6 months and then follow up with a treatment phase, but the public health department lost funding and considered a treatment program to be too expensive, so the researchers decided to continue the observation without treatment. This experiment continued for 40 years, even though penicillin was already used as a standard treatment for syphilis in 1947.

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The experiment didn’t stop until details of the study leaked to the press in 1972. Previously, the Center for Disease Control had said the experiment was supposed to continue until all subjects are deceased and autopsied. As a result of the study’s misinformation and treatment denial, 128 participants died from causes related to syphilis, 40 of the participants’ wives contracted syphilis, and 19 children were born with congenital syphilis.

Although the experiment did not target black soldiers directly, many Tuskegee participants signed up for the draft during WWII. As part of the drafting process, they were diagnosed with syphilis and ordered to seek treatment in order to join the military, but the public health department intervened, demanding that these men be excluded from the recruit list. requiring treatment. Researchers also barred participants from receiving penicillin treatments during large-scale health campaigns to eradicate syphilis.

The selection of rural black men living in poverty as the basis for the study was an extreme example of medical racism. The researchers speculated that black men were more susceptible to venereal disease, more promiscuous, and uninterested in whether or not they were receiving treatment for the disease. Tuskegee’s study on syphilis is one of the best-known cases of violations of scientific ethics, but it is not the only one.

The history of government unethical human experimentation

The United States government has run a long list of unethical research projects, and although there is no record of any true super soldier experience, American soldiers have often been used as subjects. test. During World War II, the Pentagon conducted mustard gas experiments where it exposed soldiers to chemical weapons to study their reactions. Participants were grouped by race with Black, Japanese, and Puerto Rican soldiers specifically enlisted to test for differences in their response to mustard gas.

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In the 1960s, the US military continued to test chemical weapons on US soldiers, this time without their knowledge. They sprayed several active-duty military ships with a variety of chemical and biological warfare agents, such as VX and Sarin nerve gas, and military personnel serving aboard the ships were not notified of the tests. Earlier in the 1950s, Project BLUEBIRD, the forerunner of the CIA’s infamous MKULTRA program, also administered LSD to over 7,000 soldiers without their knowledge or consent.

Prisoners have also been a common source of test subjects for unethical experiments. Just as it was easy to experiment on incarcerated Isaiah Bradley, researchers for covert government experiments often found it easy to find test subjects in prisons. From 1964 to 1968, the US military administered psychotropic drugs to inmates at Holmesburg Prison to determine the minimum effective dose needed to deactivate a population. In the 1940s, American researchers deliberately infected Guatemalan prison inmates, asylum patients, and soldiers with syphilis to test the effectiveness of penicillin as a treatment. Other government experiments dosed prisoners with radiation and applied blistering chemicals to their skin. Inmates are now considered a vulnerable population for experimentation due to their limited ability to make an informed and voluntary decision to participate.

The story of Isaiah Bradley’s abuses at the hands of government experimentation combines the fiction of the super soldier experience with the fact of genuine experimental ethics violations. As a soldier, prisoner and black man in a time of uncontrolled historical human testing, his tragic past is not far from the true story of thousands and thousands of real people subjected to horrific experiences. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier looks at the human cost of government experiments like the Super Soldier program in a way that echoes the real story.

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