James Ketchum

Washington Post
James Ketchum, who conducted mind-altering experiments on soldiers, dies at 87
By Harrison Smith
June 4, 2019

— Excerpt

James S. Ketchum, an Army psychiatrist who studied the effects of LSD and other hallucinogenic drugs on American soldiers, overseeing classified Cold War-era experiments that spurred a debate on medical ethics, died May 27 at his home in Peoria, Ariz. He was 87…

…initiatives were halted amid media reports and withering congressional hearings, during which the Edgewood project’s founder and director, Van Murray Sim, was criticized for failing to provide follow-up medical care for the 7,000 soldiers who participated as test subjects…

For the most part, Dr. Ketchum was a fierce defender of the Edgewood studies and of “psycho­chemical warfare” more broadly — as when, in 2002, Russian authorities pumped a gas into a Moscow theater where Chechen militants had seized more than 700 hostages. The gas enabled Russian special forces to storm the theater but killed scores of innocents.

“It’s been looked at by some skeptics as a kind of tragedy,” Dr. Ketchum said, according to the New Yorker. “They say, ‘Look, 130 people died.’ Well, I think that 130 is better than 800, and it’s also better, as a secondary consideration, not to have to blow up a beautiful theater.”