Bad Blood: the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment

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Dr. Bradley Moody
PUAD 6010

22 November 2004

The book BAD BLOOD: THE TUSKEGEE SYPHILIS EXPERIMENT by James H. Jones was a very powerful compilation of years of astounding research, numerous interviews, and some very interesting positions on the ethical and moral issues associated with the study of human beings under the Public Health Service (PHS). "The Tuskegee study had nothing to do with treatment … it was a nontherapeutic experiment, aimed at compiling data on the effects of the spontaneous evolution of syphilis in black males" (Jones pg. 2). Jones is very opinionated throughout the book; however, he carefully documents the foundation of those opinions with quotes from letters and medical journals. The book allowed the reader to see the experiment from different viewpoints. This was remarkable because of the initial feelings the reader has when first hearing of the experiment. In the beginning of the book, the reader will see clearly there has been wrong doing in this experiment, but somehow, Jones will transform you into asking yourself, "How could this happen for so long?" Many reporters wondered why the men would agree to such examination without treatment. Jones points out the economical status of the 1930's is one where the men were eager to attend because they received so much more than what they currently had during that time period. Free medical exams, free rides to the examinations, hot meals on exam days, free treatment for minor ailments, and a guaranteed burial stipend of a modest $50 in 1932 were all promised to the men for their involvement with these experiments (Jones pg. 4). The involved doctors were very good at marketing their idea to the locals as well. During this time the Rosenwald Fund was initiated by Julius Rosenwald to assist in educating the African-Americans in the South by supporting the construction of schools for black students. Shortly after the withdrawal of the Rosenwald Fund, Dr. Taliaferro Clark, who was selected by the surgeon general as the reviewer of the Rosenwald Fund, realized the potential of the opportunity to study Macon County Alabama's African-American males and sparked the idea of the Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male. This study was the longest nontherapeutic experiment on human beings in medical history (Jones pg. 91). Therefore, Jones' purpose was to document the experiment in a way that the reader would see all points of view, yet still realize without doubt, the implications of this study.

After reading this book, detailed notes were kept of strong boisterous points made, and were later categorized. A majority of these points were categorized as "DECEITFUL." It was apparent that Dr. Clark and Dr. Raymond Vonderlehr, Public Health Service officer selected to be in charge of the study, were both well adverse in what the public would agree to, and would not agree to. This is evident throughout the book; however, one particular instance that stood out in my mind the most was the selling of the idea to the African-Americans through the use of the schools and churches. Because of these locations, the African-American males felt safe because of their beliefs that the church would not condone anything that would hurt them. They also looked forward to the exam days because of the "social gatherings and a half day away from the fields" (Jones pg. 69). Deceit also played a part in the selling of the study to the Plantation owners by reminding them of the earlier successes against such diseases as yellow fever, typhoid fever, and pellagra. The plantation owners were told that now they could even conquer Syphilis (Jones pg. 67). Dr. Clark also took actions that were deceitful to his peers as well. In an article on the Rosenwald Fund's syphilis control demonstrations, he was careful to only circulate this article to people...
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