Intro to Psychology
Mr. Joseph J. Oaster, Jr. Med
Reaction Paper #1
During the years 1932 through 1972, the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS) used 399 African American men, for lack of a better term, as lab rats. They conducted an experiment on these men, monitoring the late stages of the venereal disease syphilis. These men were of the poorest in Alabama’s society during this period. They were uneducated sharecroppers, whom were told that they were being treated for having bad blood. A doctor, one of whom had no intentions on curing these men of syphilis, indicated that him as well as his colleges, had no interest in the patients until they were dead.
The initial study was meant to discover how syphilis affected African Americans, as opposed to Caucasians. The theory behind this experiment was that Caucasians experienced more neurological complications from syphilis, whereas African Americans were more susceptible to cardiovascular damage. But miraculously, it took some forty years for someone whom was involved in the study to notice the end results and realize that nothing that was being learned would help prevent, find, or cure one single case of infectious venereal disease syphilis. This would not even bring them any closer to their basic mission of controlling venereal disease in the United States.
By the end of the experiment, so much had gone wrong. 28 of the men had died directly from syphilis, 100 of the men were dead from related complications, 40 of their wives had been infected with syphilis, and 19 of the men’s children had been born with congenital syphilis. To one day ensure that the men would show up for a potentially painful and dangerous spinal tap, the PHS doctors led the patients to believe that this was their “Last Chance for Special Free Treatment.” This experiment stooped as low as to getting the Surgeon General of the United States to send out certificates of appreciation after 25 years in the study, to...