Nuclear ”ethics” – fatally ill man kept alive against his will, in the cause of nuclear research


In 1999 an accident at a Japanese Nuclear Power Plant caused one of its technicians, Hisashi Ouchi, to be exposed to high levels of radiation. He was kept alive for 83 days, against his will, by doctors so they could use his body to study the effects of radiation on humans.Hisashi Ouchi was one of three employees of the Tokaimura nuclear plant to be heavily impacted by the accident on 30 September 1999.

The Man Kept Alive Against His Will

How modern medicine kept a ‘husk’ of a man alive for 83 days against his will

https://historyofyesterday.com/the-man-kept-alive-againsthttps://historyofyesterday.com/the-man-kept-alive-against-his-will-647c7a24784 Colin  Aneculaese  27 July 2020, Radiation has always been a subject of great interest for many scientists. Since its discovery and weaponisation, many have looked into its impact on living organisms, especially humans. As a result, many living being suffered at the hands of those who sought to find the real impact of radiation on living beings. Throughout the years this experimentation was mainly focused on animals as it would be unethical to test such a thing on humans.

Outside of major nuclear events such as the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the meltdowns of nuclear facilities such as nuclear power plants, the effect of radiation on humans could not be tested. As such after the 1999 Tokaimura nuclear accident, many scientists jumped at the opportunity to study the victims of such a high amount of explosion to radiation. Out of all the victims of the disaster, the case of Hisashi Ouchi stands out.

Tokaimura nuclear plant

Hisashi Ouchi was one of three employees of the Tokaimura nuclear plant to be heavily impacted by the accident on 30 September 1999. Leading up to the 30th of the month the staff at the Tokaimura nuclear plant were in charge of looking after the process of dissolving and mixing enriched uranium oxide with nitric acid to produce uranyl nitrate, a product which the bosses of the nuclear plant wanted to have ready by the 28th.

Due to the tight time constraints, the uranyl nitrate wasn’t prepared properly by the staff with many shortcuts being used to achieve the tight deadline. One of these shortcuts was to handle the highly radioactive produce by hand. During their handling of the radioactive produce while trying to convert it into nuclear fuel (uranyl nitrate is used as nuclear fuel) for transportation the inexperienced three-man crew handling the operation made a mistake.

During the mixing process, a specific compound had to be added to the mixture, the inexperienced technicians added seven times the recommended amount of the compound to the mixture leading to an uncontrollable chain reaction being started in the solution. As soon as the Gamma radiation alarms sounded the three technicians knew they made a mistake. All three were exposed to deadly levels of radiation, more specifically Ouchi receiving 17 Sv of radiation due to his proximity to the reaction, Shinohara 10 Sv and Yokokawa 3 Sv due to his placement at a desk several meters away from the accidents. When being exposed to radiation it is said that anything over 10 Sv is deadly, this would prove to be true in this instance.

The fallout of radiation

Shinohara, the least affected out of the two who received a deadly dose of radiation, lasted 7 months in hospital until 27 April 2000. The technician died of lung and liver failure after a long battle against the effects of the radiation he endured. During his, 7-month stay at the University of Tokyo Hospital several skin grafts, blood transfusions and cancer treatments were performed on him with minimal success. Shinohara’s time at the University of Tokyo Hospital would be much less painful than Ouchi’s.

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