‘Diabolical mad scientist’: Ex-Army doctor probed over training practices

U.S. Army Medical Corps retired Lt. Colonel John Hagmann (L) is seen being presented the William P. Clements, Jr. Outstanding Uniformed Educator Award by Dr. Sam Nixon (R) during the U.S. Military's Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences 1989 Commencement Exercises in this USUHS handout file photo taken in Washington May 20, 1989. (Reuters / Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences)
A former US Army doctor who has trained hundreds of combat medics is facing a medical board probe over claims of animal abuse, shocking experiments on students, and even sexual improprieties during his company’s training seminars.

Doctor John Henry Hagmann, 59, is being investigated by the Virginia Board of Medicine, following allegations of misconduct during training courses organized by Deployment Medicine International (DMI) in 2012 and 2013, according to Reuters.

A 15-page report by the medical board investigators accuses Hagmann of plying students with drugs and alcohol and having them engage in bizarre medical procedures involving their genitals, whilst even volunteering to participate himself.

After a 20-year career in emergency medicine, Hagmann retired from the US Army with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in 2000, and founded DMI. Reuters states that the company has received $10.5 million in government business since its inception.

However, complaints about some of Hagmann’s practices led the medical board to suspend him in March this year.

During a July 2013 DMI training seminar in North Carolina, the report says, participants were given eight shots of rum in 10 minutes, followed by an injection of the hypnotic drug ketamine about an hour later. One participant then received a type of anesthesia called a “penile nerve block.” When another student refused to undergo the procedure, Hagmann volunteered himself as a subject.

On another occasion in the same month, the report alleges, Hagmann exploited two trainees “for personal gain and sexual gratification” at his Virginia farm. He is also accused of conducting “shock labs,” a process in which he would draw blood from the students and monitor them for shock before returning the blood to them via transfusions.

Speaking with Reuters, Hagmann rejected all claims of sexual misconduct. “Absolutely no ‘sexual gratification’ was involved and there is no evidence of such,” he said.

He also defended the practice of having students perform procedures on other students. “For a future or current medical care provider,” Hagmann said, “having practice in a safe, controlled, voluntary setting has a huge value and benefit.

The mechanisms and protocols utilized in the training all comply with standard practices for training medical students and are, in fact, utilized in medical schools in Virginia,” Hagmann said, adding the courses and procedures were reviewed and approved by the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU), a government-run medical school educating health professionals in military matters.

Screenshot from YouTube user PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals)

A spokeswoman for the university, Sharon Holland, told the agency the USU suspended its relationship with Hagmann in 2013, following a student’s claims of improprieties. “We launched an investigation and those findings prompted a report to the Virginia Medical Board,” Holland said.

On Monday, People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) sent a video to the Pentagon, which they say was secretly filmed by one of their activists in 2013 at a DMI seminar. The extremely graphic recording showed the abuse of live pigs, as well as racist and sexist jokes by course instructors, PETA’s laboratory investigations director Justin Goodman told Reuters. The group has asked the Department of Defense to stop providing contracts to DMI.

Representative Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), a member of the House Armed Services Committee and author of a law banning “live-tissue” training, said he was disturbed by the video and the charges against Hagmann.

It seems like this is a renegade contractor visiting abuse on military personnel and live animals,” Johnson said. “It’s mind-boggling. It’s like a diabolical mad scientist at work in a horror movie.”

Hagmann is facing a hearing before the full medical board on June 19, which may include testimony from students and other witnesses. He may lose his medical license depending on the verdict.