Experimental drugs and other treatments may be prescribed for patients who are not informed that the full effects of their treatment are not known and who are not asked for their consent to take part in an experiment. Such patients are generally those who can be most easily pressured into accepting unknown and in some cases unwanted treatments, such as the poor and uneducated. Reports of unethical experimentation have been made particularly with regard to contraceptive methods and methods of induced abortion.
IG Farben, Germany's largest chemical cartel, participated in the operation of the Auschwitz concentration camp. Survivors allege that the chemical cartel conducted lethal experiments on the prisoners. The manner in which chemical cartel officials allegedly availed themselves of state permission to conduct unethical experiments on unwilling human subjects brings into question the role of the state in authorizing ongoing experimentation on the public, e.g. state-sponsored determinations of "acceptable levels" of human deaths and illnesses from exposure to "acceptable doses" of chemical contaminants.
In 1996, the US government permitted researchers to include patients in medical experiments without requiring their consent. The patients must have a life-threatening condition, be unable to indicate whether they wish to be part of a study, and have no relatives whom it is possible to ask for consent. The experiments must be approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
The now infamous Tuskegee syphilis experiment in Alabama, was conducted on around 600 poor rural black men by the US Public Health Service. The experiments begun in 1932, and continued for 40 years, until the news finally broke in 1972 in the national press.
All but one of eighteen hospital patients knew they were being injected with low-level plutonium by US government researchers after the element was first produced by the Manhatten Project in the 1940s.