by Project Censored
Published: Last Updated on

Dwayne Sexton, a six-year-old American boy suffering from leukemia, was bathed in “seas of radiation” as part of a cruel government experiment. In fact, between 1960 and 1974, at least 89 cancer patients, including Dwayne, were systematically exposed to large doses of radiation in two specially designed chambers at the Institute of Nuclear Studies in Oak Ridge, Tenn.

An 18-month investigation by Mother Jones revealed that what started as a legitimate attempt to improve cancer therapy techniques evolved into something quite different:

– The Oak Ridge Institute was an Atomic Energy Commission clinic used for simultaneous research experiments on animals and humans.

– Leading authorities on radiation protection, and even the AEC itself, judged the cancer treatments were of little, if any, benefit to the patients.

– The government doctors administering the treatments knew of other, more superior, therapy techniques but, at least in Dwayne Sexton’s case, initially withheld these better-established cancer treatments.

– The Oak Ridge clinic facilities were ‘substandard” and the AEC eventually forced its own clinic to shut down.

– Patients did not offer their fully informed consent to be part of some experiments.

– Though the treatments were administered as cancer therapy, one primary purpose was to obtain data for the United States’ space program on human reactions to radiation.

Dwayne Sexton died at the Oak Ridge clinic on December 29, 1968, a month after his last therapy session. In the entire history of the U.S. Manned Spaceflight Program, not a single astronaut ever received a high-enough dose of radiation to suffer from the syndrome.

The man who conducted the experiments, Clarence Lushbaugh, still has his offices at the clinic itself but now is the director of the Oak Ridge Associated Universities’ Medical and Health Sciences Division.

The failure of the mass media to widely publicize this story in an effort to halt or prevent similar human experimen­tation qualifies this for nomination as a “best censored” story of 1981.


Mother Jones, 9/81, “Informed Consent” by Howard L. Rosenberg.