The Government Experiment That Led To A Man's Death

You may have heard about MK-Ultra, but have you heard the story of Harold Blauer? The tennis player and tennis teacher died in 1953 at the age of 42 following an Army experiment gone wrong, according to The New York Times. The investigation, which intended to explore potential chemicals to be used in war, was undertaken without Blauer's knowledge or consent while Blauer was a patient at a psychiatric facility (via the Associated Press). Blauer, who had been struggling with depression since his divorce, had admitted himself to the facility for treatment.

Unbeknownst to him, the facility had a contract with the Army Chemical Corps that allowed the Army to experiment on patients.

As part of the Army's study, Blauer was regularly injected with hallucinogenic drugs and monitored. While Blauer knew these injections were experimental, he had no idea they were intended for use in chemical warfare. He was given the drugs five times before he died. The fifth injection was much larger than previous doses, and caused him to froth at the mouth and convulse. He died only two hours after receiving the injection.

But the Army didn't fess up to the circumstances of Blauer's death after he died. Instead, it took decades and litigation from Blauer's children before they would own up, publicly and financially, to their role in his death.

His children seek justice

Shortly after Blauer died, his ex-wife Amy sued the state for their involvement in his death, according to the Associated Press. It seemed obvious to her that the experimental injections caused his death, and though she didn't know the injections involved hallucinogens, she was still wary of the impact that they had. However, the Army altered evidence records so they could give themselves plausible deniability, and promoted the narrative that Blauer actually died from an unknown underlying heart condition that was merely triggered by the drugs. They settled with Blauer's ex-wife out of court for $18,000 in 1955, or about $188,800 today, according to The New York Times.

However, it wasn't until the 1970s that the truth of the experiments was revealed on a national scale. In the 1980s, Blauer's children decided to seek justice for him and sued the government and state employees for Blauer's suffering. In 1987, a judge granted Blauer's children $700,000, or about $1.7 million today. In the ruling, the judge said, "Rather than admit its role in Blauer's death, the Government covered up its involvement in the affair ... to avoid embarrassment and adverse publicity." Blauer, she said, had been treated like "a guinea pig."

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.