Plutonium Injections – Patient HP-4

Jean Daigneault

Jean Daigneault

This biography is in honor of one of the patients that were injected with plutonium in Rochester, NY during WWII.

Jean E. Daigneault was born 9 Feb. 1927 to Ulysses L. and Ethel M. Daigneault. The parents were both born in Rhode Island. Jean’s older brother, Robert, and older sister, Ruth, were both born in Rhode Island. The family moved to Rochester about 1924 where Ulysses was a gold plater. The family would move to a new address every couple of years. Eventually the family would move to Geneseo in Livingston County.

As a teenager, Jean had won the western NY women’s breast stroke championship. Then she contracted Cushing’s syndrome which made her face take on an oval shape plus she gained weight. Doctor’s would put her on a diet of rice and raisins to lose weight. The diet would do nothing except make her frustrated.

Jean was the youngest of the patients to be injected with plutonium at Strong Memorial Hospital. She was only 18 when on 27 Nov. 1945 she was injected with .30 microcuries of plutonium. That is 43 times the amount of radiation that a normal person would receive in their lifetime.

Jean would only live a year and a half more. She died 29 April 1947 of Cushing’s syndrome and was buried in the Temple Hill Cemetery in Geneseo, NY. On her tombstone is the inscription; “A Martyr to Medical Science.”

In 1973 the older sister, Ruth, was asked if Jean’s remains could be exhumed. She thought that was to help on research into Cushing’s syndrome. She wasn’t told anything about plutonium even at that time so she approved the exhumation. On 24 Sept. 1973 Jean’s remains were exhumed and sent to Argonne National Laboratory near Chicago, Illinois. She would not be returned until July 1975.

When I went to the Temple Hill Cemetery to take a photo of her tombstone, the man in the office said that there were two people buried there by the name of Jean Daigneault. In fact it was Jean being buried twice; once in 1947 and again in 1975.

A Matryr to Medical Science

A Martyr to Medical Science