The Ethic of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study

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The Tuskegee Syphilis Study
Thomas Shaw
Grand Canyon University
PHL 305

The Tuskegee Syphilis Study was developed to study the affects of Syphilis on adult black males. The intention of the study was to find ways to improve the quality of health in African Americans in the southern states. While the treatment phase of the program was beginning, America fell into the great depression and the benefactor, The Julius Rosenwald Fund no longer had the funds for the treatment of the men. What do you do with two hundred ninety-nine men with Syphilis that you can no longer or begin to treat? How does a society that is predominantly prejudice get African Americans to participate in such a study? Knowing their past service in helping the African Americans the PHS went to the Tuskegee Institute for help with the recruitment of participants. In return, the Institute received money and training for their staff positions. It is extremely possible these “African Americans may not ever have seen a Doctor prior to the initial examination for the study” (Tuskegee University). Dr. Clark of the Public Health Services (PHS) was able to get the project approved. As the treatments were to begin the Great Depression hit the United States. This would affect the project because without the funding from Rosenwald there was not enough money to continue. Dr. Clark came up with the idea to study the effects of untreated Syphilis on living humans. The PHS decided to adopt the suggestion and the study was then adapted to study the effects of untreated Syphilis. The entire experiment violated the beneficence principal because they did not meet the definition of this principal, “there is an obligation to protect persons from harm by maximizing anticipated benefits and minimizing possible risks of harm” (IRB Guidebook). The PHS should have told the participants (if that is what they were) about the disease the men...
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