A Surprise Package

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is situated just north of Washington, DC, in Bethesda, Maryland.  It is part of the United States Department of Health and Human Services and is the primary government agency responsible for biomedical and public health research.  It is the largest biomedical institution in the world.  It addition to its own research, NIH provides major biomedical funding to other research facilities throughout the nation.

Individuals sometimes sign up for clinical trials at NIH as the institution pursues it research into the causes, symptoms, and possible treatments of certain diseases or conditions.  The person might receive medications, or, as a member of a control group, may only be given a placebo.

In 1959 I had a friend who was involved in a clinical trial at NIH.  I do not remember his precise problem, but it was related to gastroenterology. After one of his periodic visits to NIH, he was given a plastic container and asked to bring a stool specimen when he returned for his next session.

My friend lived south of the District of Columbia and had to drive through Washington on his way to NIH.  He had the specimen in the container and placed it in a paper bag on the front passenger seat.  On his way through the city he stopped at a service station for gasoline and a trip to the rest room. On his return to his car, the paper bag and its contents had disappeared.

I have often tried to imagine that thief’s reaction when he opened the bag.

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