Bioterrorism

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Tuskeegee Study
Lauren Schultz
Health team Relations Block 4

In the early 1900s, there was an outbreak of a disease called syphilis. Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease (STD). The bacterium it formed from is called the Treponema Pallidum. Unfortunately, no one really knew about the disease. Syphilis had many signs and symptoms that other diseases had. Because of this, many times, it was misnamed and patients were diagnosed wrong. Since scientists and doctors didn’t know about the disease, they decided to take it a step further and do a study on it.

Back then, they only thought African-American men got the disease. So without the patients’ informed consent, they did the study on them. 600 African-American men were used for the study. 399 had syphilis, and 201 did not. While the study was going on, the doctors told the men that they were being treated because they had “bad blood”. Unfortunately, the men did not receive proper treatment to cure the disease. This went on for 40 years.

The worse part about this study is that the public didn’t know about what was happening. In 1972, the Associate Press finally leaked it out to the public. A lot of people were furious. So the Assistant Secretary for Health and Scientific Affairs stepped in and appointed an Ad Hoc Advisory Panel to judge what really happened. On the panel, there was different people from the different fields of medicine. They included medicine, law, religion, labor, education, health administration, and public affairs.

The panel concluded that the men were treated unproperly because they were not offered penicillin, which was the drug that supposedly cured syphilis back then. They also found that the men weren’t offered a choice to quit if they wanted to. However, the panel found that the subjects had agreed to be examined, but there was no evidence showing the real purpose of the study.

In the end, the panel decided the Tuskeegee Study was “ethically unjustified”. The risks...
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