28 | The Appalling Tuskegee Syphilis Study

In 1932, the Public Health Service, working with the Tuskegee Institute, began a study to record the natural history of syphilis in hopes of justifying treatment programs for blacks. It was called the “Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male.”

Bill Jenkins, epidemiologist who tried to end Tuskegee syphilis ...
Nurse doing blood test on man

The study initially involved 600 black men – 399 with syphilis, 201 who did not have the disease. The study was conducted without the benefit of patients’ informed consent. Researchers told the men they were being treated for “bad blood,” a local term used to describe several ailments, including syphilis, anemia, and fatigue. In truth, they did not receive the proper treatment needed to cure their illness. In exchange for taking part in the study, the men received free medical exams, free meals, and burial insurance. Although originally projected to last 6 months, the study actually went on for 40 years.

Example of secondary Syphilis rash

The participants not being treated was a further atrocity because Penicillin became a safe and effective treatment in 1945 but was never used on the study participants.

Doctor giving man a shot

1972
First news articles condemn studies.

Study ends.

1973
Congress holds hearings and a class-action lawsuit is filed on behalf of the study participants.

1974
A $10 million out-of-court settlement is reached.

The U.S. government also promised to give lifetime medical benefits and burial services to all living participants; the Tuskegee Health Benefit Program (THBP) was established to provide these services.

President Clinton with the last surviving member of the study, offering apology and lifetime medical care for him and all of the studies offspring.

Doctor John Charles Cutler

Doctor Cutler was one of the Doctors in charge of the Tuskegee project in its later years (post Penicillin years). He was also in charge of another terrible study in Guatemala. He would pay prostitutes who were infected with Gonorrhea and Syphilis to have sex with prisoners, military and insane persons and see how they would respond to penicillin/ no treatment. This was done without their consent. He infected more than 1,300 in the study.

Dr Cutler never got in trouble for being a terrible human being.

He was never condemned for his crimes against humanity until after his death in 2003. President Barack Obama officially apologized for the Guatemalan study in 2010.

Sources:

https://www.cdc.gov/tuskegee/timeline.htm

https://gizmodo.com/the-u-s-doctor-who-infected-1-300-guatemalan-patients-1696095744

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