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DOD documents. That spring, the JFA held a press conference to present their findings to the media. `,`There were so many smoking guns left behind in these original papers for the DOD,” Stephens writes, “that one could hardly make out the papers through the smoke that enveloped them.” You’d think the feeding frenzy would have been ferocious. It was, instead, an exercise in denial. Yes, The New York Times and The Washington Post ran obligatory pieces, and the BBC sent over a team to make a mini-documentary on the project \(but nobody in where the story mattered most, the JFA report generated minimal attention. A few local reporters attended the press conference, but they failed to print the full story, leaving it for the next generation of reporters to resurrect 20 years later. “Indeed,” Stephens explains, “our report was suppressed in Cincinnati, where of course it would have posed the grave danger of alerting victims and their families to what had happened to them.” Frustrated with the low turnout, the JFA arranged , for a CBS affiliate to visit the university and cover the story with a sensational 15second blurb on the nightly news. As the team was preparing to shoot, a fire broke out in a nearby nursing home and the group predictably bolted, never to return. “And so it goes, all too often” Stephens writes, “with American journalism.” American journalism, in fact, is one of the most interesting layers of this story. Curiously, the more the JFA protested, the less the local media listened. On ,the one hand, as Stephens explains, “the medial school doubled its efforts to block access to the patients and privately hired special counsel in . Washington to fortify the legal wall between patients and potential interviewers.” So the journalist’s job was seriously impaired. On the other hand, there was .the city’s major daily, The Cincinnati Enquirer. It became Stephens’, nemesis, the force that “commanded and subdued me, turn[ing] back almost all the efforts I had ever made… to communicate with it.” Printing over 250,000 copies a day, Cincinnati’s major paper, beholden as it was to Gannett and the local cabal of fat cats, avoided coverage of dissent like the plague. “[T] he Cincinnati case was slipped… very softly away into a deep secret drawer of history” But in the winter of 1994, after an Albuquerque freelance reporter had succeeded in finding family members of those who had been injected with plutonium as part of military research in the 1940s, the radiation tests came back into vogue as yet another Cold War tragedy. Linda Reeves, a young reporter at the Enquirer, worked closely with Stephens to ensure that this time around her story would be told to the right peoplenamely, the relatives of the deceased. Gradually, in bits and spurts, and with a new competitor, the Cincinnati Post, breathing down its neck, the Enquirer laid bare the damning facts of the radiation experiments while contacting the sons, daughters, nieces, and nephews of the victims. As they did, the medical establishment went into codeblue spin control, and Stephens wisely stops to explore the impressive wall that this professional community built around itself as a growing swarm of reporters badgered them for comments, information on patients, and expert opinions on full-body radiation. “Deliberate medical violence,” she writes, “is rarely a simple thing to expose,” especially when not a single doctor in .Cincinnati would “speak up for , those irradiated.’.’ One local physician, after reading the DOD reports, did initially agree to condemn them publicly. However, after .a call from city attorneys, she switched gears and explained that she “did not feel I could go against [the UC doctors].” The silence from the medical community was deafening. It made Reeves’ work all the more heroic. The Treatment has its faults. In a book that impugns sensationalistic journalism, it often , engageS in it itself: “I remember being very content .with a Channel .12 lead in… ‘Old General Hospital’s on the hotseat tonight!'” Stephens too often allows passion to cloud reason \(“was [the treatment] any less horrible than a crazed attack with a Press weakened an otherwise impressive book with a thin index and hasty editing \(unidentified names appear that were mentioned more than 100 pages earlier, forcing the reader to consult a However, by the time you hit the last few chapters, with the medical drama having moved its way into the courtroom and Stephens masterfully intensifying it, these minor flaws hardly matter. What matters, instead, is the larger question of how, once such a tragic case ‘of medical malpractice is exposed, justice can possibly be achieved. It’s a big question that Stephens underscores with smaller, but no less important ones. Should the victims’ families seek a class-action settlement that demands public apologies and recognition but doles out only about $8,000 per plaintiff? Or, should they follow the lead of a bunch of out-of town lawyers \(including one from descended on Cincinnati like vultures to convince the plaintiffs to reject the settlement, go to trial, and aim for the big bucks? Should the federal judge mediating the settlement interpret the defendants’ immunity plea in the narrow context of conventional legal precedent, or should she invoke the Nuremberg Code used to convict Nazi doctors after WWII? Should the defendants’ personal worth be assessed in order to gauge the depth of their pockets, or should the plaintiffs go after the wealthier institutions involved? As her subjects founder on these questions, self-interest prevails and justice is deferred. Stephens, sadly, must end her book with an eloquent, hypothetical statement that someday might go on a public memorial to the treatment’s victims. Should justice ever get a second chance, I hope Cincinnati listens. James McWilliams is a writer in Austin. 5/24/02 THE MASOBSERVER. 21