Under the shadow of Tuskegee: African Americans and health care American Journal of Public Health November
November 1997: Vol. 87, No. 11, pp. 1773-1778
Page numbers: 5
Vanessa Northington Gamble
Professor William Sales
December 5, 2013
From 1932 to 1972 the U.S. government conducted a 40 year old study known as the Tuskegee Syphilis Study. Men from Macon County, Alabama, 399 to be exact, were deliberately denied treatment for syphilis due to experimentation purposes. In order to observe the natural course of the disease, physicians avoided using medication since this would defeat the purpose of the experiment. The Tuskegee study has left a negative impact on many African Americans causing distrust towards the medical healthcare system. Many argue that the Tuskegee study is the single reason African Americans are weary of public health authorities today, however, there will be other examples provided in this review which will vividly portray the cruel treatment freed and enslaved African Americans experienced. These examples will help support the reasons African Americans are hesitant when involved with the healthcare system. Although the Tuskegee study may seem like the major reason for the African American’s distrust towards the healthcare system, there have been many other instances where enslaved and freed African Americans have been used as subjects for medical experimentation. For instance, Thomas Hamilton who in the early 1830s had conducted experiments to test remedies for heatstroke, forced his subject (an enslaved African) to sit naked on a pit heated at a high temperature. As the experiment proceeded, over the course of 2 to 3 weeks, Hamilton provided the subject with medication to determine which drug would allow the body to withstand scorching temperatures. However, this experiment soon ended after Hamilton’s subject fainted. Another cruel healthcare “professional”...
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