Keen as Mustard: Britain's Horrific Chemical Warfare Experiments in Australia

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KEEN AS MUSTARD: Britain's horrific chemical warfare experiments in Australia by Bridget Goodwin. 361 pages. University of Queensland Press, Queensland Australia. 1998. $29.95.

Keen as Mustard is both important and terrible. It is important because Bridget Goodwin examines the history of chemical warfare and the use of human "volunteers" as guinea pigs for scientific testing. It is terrible because of how callously scientific and government leaders physically damaged young Australian military men. Only one member of the Australian Defence Committee considered the plight of these soldiers and expressed the view that it was inappropriate to use soldiers in experiments. His objections were "swiftly quashed."

The total absence of "informed consent" during these experiments is appalling. Informed consent is now an essential component of both health care and research, but it was not during World War II. Scientists not only exploited the absence of informed consent, they took advantage of the Australian temperament and intent to "uphold the national spirit of bravery, devotion to duty in the name of the British Empire and cheerfulness in the face of adversity. …