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New York Prisoner’s Medical Experimentation Complaint Improperly Dismissed

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a New York federal district court’s dismissal of a prisoner’s claim that he was subject to “inhumane treatment” by having medical experiments conducted on him.

The 1971 claim of prisoner Otis Clay was brought against three doctors employed by the Public Health Service, the U.S. Surgeon General, the U.S. Attorney General, the Director of the Bureau of Prisons, and the U.S. Government.

Clay’s complaint said that in 1970 he participated in a program of drug experimentation conducted by defendants at the Addiction Research Center, a laboratory of the National Institute of Mental Health in Lexington, Kentucky. Clay was injected with Naltrexone, a drug thought to prevent narcotics from exerting euphoric and dependency effects. While the drug was known to be dangerous, Clay consented because he was assured by the doctor the dosage was too small to cause harm. Despite those assurances, Clay suffered a serious heart attack.

The Second Circuit held the district court erred in holding the complaint was “defective as to venue, subject matter, jurisdiction, and improper parties.” Clay should have also been allowed to amend his second complaint. See: Clay v. Martin, 509 F.20 109 (2nd Cir. 1975).

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Related legal case

Clay v. Martin