Former Fernald Resident Sues Over Secret Radiation
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
July 2, 2004
BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS--A former resident of Fernald Developmental Center is suing the Massachusetts Department of Mental Retardation, claiming it secretly subjected him to radiation experiments in the late 1940s and 1950s.
Charles Hatch was 7 years old in 1946 when he was sent to what was then called the Fernald State School. Three years later, Hatch was selected for the "Science Club". He and dozens of other youngsters were told that participation in the "club" was a reward for good behavior. They were not informed that they were part of a government-sponsored Cold War experiment and that the Quaker Oats oatmeal to which they were being "treated" was, in fact, radioactive.
In 1995, a lawsuit was filed against DMR on behalf of 74 former residents of Fernald and the Wrentham State School. The state settled the suit and paid the former residents between $50,000 and $60,000 each.
Hatch was not part of the 1995 suit because the state did not have him listed as being involved in the experiments.
"They kept on telling him he wasn't a participant," Hatch's attorney, Jeffrey Petrucelly told the Associated Press.
An April 1 letter from DMR lawyer Peter J. Morin revealed that Hatch "may have been involved in the aforementioned experiments". Morin apologized for stating earlier that Hatch was not a participant.
"There are many more who haven't been informed that they were participants," Petrucelly said.
Hatch's lawsuit, filed Wednesday in Suffolk Superior Court, seeks unspecified damages.
In May of this year, six former residents of the Fernald Developmental Center visited Governor Mitt Romney and presented a petition to Commissioner of Mental Retardation Gerald J. Morrissey Jr., saying they represented thousands of people who were "wrongly" committed to the state's institutions which house people with developmental disabilities.
The group demanded an apology for being improperly labeled "morons" and placed at the institutions during the middle of the last century. They want the state to change their records to correct what they feel are inaccuracies. They are also asking for unspecified compensation.
Many details about the mistreatment of former Fernald residents have been revealed in the recently-released book "The State Boys Rebellion" by Michael D'Antonio.
Fernald Development Center, originally called the "Massachusetts School for the Feeble Minded", was founded by social reformer Samuel Gridley Howe in 1848. It was later renamed for a former superintendent of the facility. It remains the oldest institution in the Americas.
Governor Romney's recent attempts to close the aging facility have met with resistance from institution employees and family members of those housed there.
"Fernald Developmental Center -- Oldest Institution In the Americas" (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)