Acres of Skin
Human Experiments at Holmesburg Prison
Copyright Year 1998
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At a time of increased interest and renewed shock over the Tuskegee syphilis experiments, Acres of Skin sheds light on yet another dark episode of American medical history. In this disturbing expose, Allen M. Hornblum tells the story of Philadelphia's Holmesburg Prison.
Allen M. Hornblum teaches Urban Studies at Temple University. He has served on the Board of Trustees of the Philadelphia Prison System and as the Chief of Staff of Philadelphia's Sheriff's Office.
"Hornblum delineates the contours of the injustice in fine detail. . . In recent years historians of science and medicine have turned their attention to the paradox of American research practices involving human subjects in the wake of Nuremburg. This book is a welcome empirical contribution to the ongoing scholarly discussion. --M. Susan Lindee for Isis: Journal of the History of Science Society, Vol. 91, No, 2, June 2000."
"This admirably comprehensive story of the use of prisoners for medical research is embarrassingly painful to read . . . This encyclopedic, well-documented treatise . . . is a fascinating story." -- Journal of the American Medical Association
"Hornblum's book is awesome, revealing the sanctimonious venality of American medicine . . . Excellent! Highly recommended." -- Choice
"A recently released expose has sparked new interest in this controversial chapter of American medical history." -- Village Voice
"A startling new book." -- Philadelphia Tribune
" Acres of Skin is a harrowing, searing journey into the ways in which we prey upon the weak and defenseless in the supposed name of medical advancement. The fact that these human experiments were sanctioned and condoned by one of the most prestigious universities in the world only makes this true story all the more remarkable and disturbing." -- Buzz Bissinger, author of A Prayer for the City and Friday Night Lights
"Hornblum has written a highly effective expose." -- Publishers Weekly
"Devastating picture of US medical experimentation and the men, educational institutions, and drug companies that carried it out." -- Booklist
"A thorough account of the questionable medical experimentation carried out in Philadelphia's Holmesburg Prison from the mid-1940s to 1974. . . . Essential for students of medical ethics." -- Library Journal
"Hornblum has masterfully retold this tale." -- The Philadelphia Inquirer
"Allen Hornblum's Acres of Skin does for Holmesburg what David Rothman's Willowbrook's Wars and James Jones' Bad Blood did for Tuskegee. Each shows how the authority of science has been used to effect officially sanctioned exploitation of the vulnerable. Part of the tragedy is that we must wait decades for its public exposure." -- John Kleinig, Director of the Institute for Criminal Justice Ethics, John Jay College for Criminal Justice
"Acres of Skin is painful to read, but it must be read--not only for its historical significance but also for what it can still teach us about the conduct of medical research in the contemporary world. For Allen M. Hornblum's compelling account of what transpired within Holmesburg prison is, sadly, only a chapter in an ongoing story." -- Jay Katz, M.D., Elizabeth K. Dollard Professor Emeritus of Law, Medicine, and Psychiatry, Yale Law School
"Acres of Skin is a powerful and impassioned expose of the dark side of American medicine. Most damning is Hornblum's documentation of the callous indifference of prison authorities, politicians, the U.S. Military, and the so-called watchdogs of the medical profession to the hideous and dangerous experiments performed by physicians who violated their sacred oath to heal, not harm, their patients. A most important book." -- Sheldon Harris, author of Factories of Death
"The book really gives the reader an in-depth account of the back-alley medical practices/experiments that were taking place at the prison. It brings forth the truth." -- Leodus Jones, former Holmesburg Prison inmate
"A compelling account of how in the 1960s and early 1970s government and privately funded researchers took advantage of prisoners' susceptibility to promises of easy money or early release in exchange for the prisoners' willingness to serve as human subjects in research." -- T. Howard Stone, Medical Humanities Review
"This work is written with compassion and makes a significant contribution to social medical history and the history of science through its scholarship as well a through its call for social justice." -- Theresa Richardson, Canadian Journal of History, April 2001