The Tuskegee Experiment

In 1932, in the area surrounding Tuskegee, Macon County, Alabama, the United States Public Health Service (PHS) and the Rosenwald Foundation began a survey and small treatment program for African-Americans with syphilis. Within a few months, the deepening depression, the lack of funds from the foundation, and the large number of untreated cases provied the government’s reseachers with what seemed to be an unprecedented opportunity to study a seemingly almost “natural” experimentation of lantent syphilis in African-American men. What had begun as a “treatment” program thus was converted by the PHS reasearchers, under the imprimatur of the Surgeon General and with knowledge and consent of the Prewsident of Tuskegee Institute, the medical director of the Institute’s John A. Andrew Hospital, and the Macon County public health officials, into a persecpective study-The Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male (Jones1-15). Moreover, the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, which began in 1932 and was terminated in 1972 by the protest of an enraged public, constituted the longest nontherapeutic experiment on human beings in medical history. Since the premise on which the experiment was based did not involve finding a cure or providing treatment, the question then remains why did the study begin and why was it continued for four decades?

In Bad Blood: The Tuskegee Syphhilis Experiment, James Jones describes the fate of the 600 Black victims. Ultimately, 399 men, who were in the late or tertiary stages of syphilis, participated in the experiment. In addition, 201 men who were free of the disease were in cluded in the study. Both groups of men were neither told the truth about their ailment or lack thereof, nor were they informed that they were part of a medical study. Medical personnel assured the subjects that they were suffering from “bad blood,” a euphemism that in the local parlance, reffered to many ailments. None...
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