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[Perspectives] Weapons tests, human rights, and the question of consent

One morning in May, 1953, Ronald Maddison, a 23-year-old wireless mechanic in the UK’s Royal Air Force, entered a sealed chamber at Porton Down, a top-secret research facility in the Wiltshire countryside. At 1017 h, he received a 200 mg dose of a nerve agent administered in droplets to layers of cloth pressed against his left forearm. Within 30 minutes, he was unconscious. Soon after that, his breathing stopped. “It was like he was being electrocuted”, recounted an ambulance driver summoned to the scene: “his whole body was convulsing”.