NEW YORK -- A federal judge Tuesday awarded more than $700,000 to the estate of a man who died in 1953 after he was used involuntarily as a human guinea pig in a secret Army chemical warfare program.
U.S. District Court Judge Constance Motley ordered the $702,044 award in the federal negligent death suit to Elizabeth Barrett and her sister Belinda Gilroy on behalf of the estate of Harold Blauer, their father.
Blauer died 'as a result of one in a series of injections of mescaline derivatives he was given at the New York State Psychiatric Institute, a hospital run by New York State.'
The hospital was under contract to the Army to experiment on chemical warfare drugs. The government did not know if it would appeal the decision.
The judge said the Army used 'a hallucinogen' on Blauer in its search for a 'potential 'dicombobulator' of enemy populations.'
Blauer was a 42-year-old tennis pro undergoing psychotherapy for severe depression following a divorce from his wife when he died Jan. 8, 1953.
Admitted to the Psychiatric Institute in Manhattan Dec. 5, 1952, and having improved substantially through therapy, 'he was scheduled to be released in a matter of weeks' when he died, according to Motley's 109-page decision.
Blauer's depression was not regarded as a permanent psychiatric condition.
His ex-wife brought action against the State of New York on behalf of the estate, eventually settling for $18,000 in 1955. A release signed at the time was rescinded in order to file the federal suit.
Amy Blauer, the ex-wife, died in 1974. The army's role was revealed in August 1975 and the federal suit filed the following month.
Motley said the statute of limitations did not apply because of fraud by the government in not telling the victim it was carrying out the secret chemical warfare experiment.
While Blauer was aware the drugs he was being injected with were experimental, 'He certainly had no idea that he was being used in an experiment to develop chemical warfare agents.'
The fatal injection, over his objection, about 9:55 a.m. was 'a hybrid between mescaline and amphedamine (cq).'
Within minutes he became restless and had to be restrained, began sweating profusely and flailing his arms, she said. In just over an hour he clenched his teeth and began frothing at the mouth. After about 90 minutes he lapsed into a coma and died at 12:15 p.m.
His death was attributed to 'coronary arteriosclerosis, sudden death after intravenous injection of a mescaline derivative.'
The injection was given for 'diagnostic purposes,' according to the medical examiner's report.
'The report was misleading in that it indicated that the injection was given for diagnostic purposes,' Motley said.
She said his ex-wife settled the state suit because it looked like a 'garden variety medical malpractice case.
'A conspiracy soon developed to make sure that the estate accepted this convenient picture of death.
'The primary reason the Army covered up its involvement was to avoid 'embarassment and adverse publicity' that would result in the disclosure that the government was testing potential chemical warfare agents on unsuspecting citizens,' Motley said.
'The events in this case occurred at a time when people trusted their government and other institutions in a way that may seem almost naive today,' she said.