Don Kreitz left prison life for good in 1972. He married, became a stepfather to three children, and built a successful painting business in Spokane., But Kreitz, 57, couldn’t forget a painful episode in his past.
While serving a sentence for forgery and burglary at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla, Kreitz became a human experiment.
He was 27 when he agreed to let a Seattle doctor bombard his testicles with X-rays in exchange for $10 a month for coffee and cigarettes.
Kreitz filed suit on Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Spokane against Dr. C. Alvin Paulsen of Seattle and Dr. Gimmie Losey of Walla Walla, a former prison doctor.
Kreitz joins Don Byers, an Airway Heights inmate who filed suit in December against the two doctors.
“I want to make sure this never happens to anyone else again. Convicts are still people,” Kreitz said.
Paulsen didn’t return telephone calls made Thursday to his office in Seattle. Losey, contacted at his private practice in College Place, Wash., declined comment.
“I’ve heard nothing about the second suit,” Losey said.
The Atomic Energy Commission paid for the Cold War experiments to learn how radiation might affect the fertility of nuclear workers, soldiers and astronauts.
A total of 131 prisoners at the Washington prison and the Oregon State Penitentiary in Salem took part.
Prisoners were chosen for the experiments because “they weren’t going anywhere,” Paulsen, a retired University of Washington Medical School professor, said in a 1994 interview.
For Kreitz, the experiments brought pain - and regret.
The testicular biopsies that followed the radiation “felt like a mule kicking you,” he said.
A vasectomy also was required at the end of the experiment “so we wouldn’t have any monsters,” Kreitz said. As a result, he and his wife of 24 years weren’t able to have children of their own.
The identities of the Oregon participants were made public in 1984. In a 1994 investigation, The Spokesman-Review sought the names of the Washington participants., Paulsen rebuffed the request, citing confidentiality. He said the prisoners preferred privacy and noted he promised to answer their health questions after the experiments ended.
But Kreitz said he couldn’t reach Paulsen when he developed a discharge and severe pain in the early 1970s. “You couldn’t talk to that man on a bet,” Kreitz said.
In 1975, Paulsen told federal officials no follow-up was necessary and his malpractice insurance would cover any lawsuits resulting from the experiments, according to a federal memo.
Attorney Nancy Oreskovich, who represents Kreitz and Byers, is asking for unspecified damages for invasion of privacy, physical suffering and emotional distress.
Last December, a team of East Coast lawyers filed suit on behalf of the Oregon prisoners. Those experiments were conducted by Dr. Carl Heller of Seattle, who died in 1982.
In 1993, Energy Secretary Hazel O’Leary launched a high-profile critique of the government’s clandestine radiation experiments.
A White House committee last October said the prison experiments were unethical because the prisoners were a captive population and not fully informed of the risks.
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