Bad Blood: The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment
Between the years of 1932 and 1972, the United States Public Health Service conducted a study of untreated syphilis on black men in Macon County, Alabama. Although these men were not purposely infected with the disease, the USPH service did recruit physicians, white and black, to NOT treat those men already diagnosed. It was felt that syphilis in a white male created more neurological deficits whereas in a black male, more cardiovascular, these of course not able to be determined while either was among the living and was only to be determined after the subject died and an autopsy was completed. Doctors not giving them treatment as they deserved, certainly deemed them as subjects, similar to lab specimens versus patients that warranted compassionate, proper and timely medical care. Over 600 black men were chosen for this study with over half already carrying the diagnosis of syphilis and 200 who did not. These men were picked mainly because of their environment, education, and race, with race being the largest factor. Those chosen for the study were mainly sharecroppers, with a lack of education and medical care; they were told that they were being treated for ‘bad blood’, which could have meant any number of different maladies, including syphilis. “The true nature of the experiment had to be kept from the subjects to ensure their cooperation. The sharecroppers grossly disadvantaged lot in life made them easy to manipulate” (Jones) Ethical implications of this study are wide and varied. The many methods that were used throughout the course of the study, such as failure to completely inform the men of their disease, or that they had the option quit the study at any time, failure to provide proper medical treatment, or that their families as well would become affected by this disease, all under the guise of free medical treatment, meals, transportation and burial insurance. Providing inadequate dosing for...
Cited: Gamble, Vanessa N. “Tuskegee Lessons Syphilis Study Leaves behind Legacy of Mistrust”
Jones, James H. Bad Blood: The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment. 1993.
Reverby, Susan M. “America’s Nuremberg,” The Tuskegee Study. 08-30-1932
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