Case Study: Tuskegee Syphilis

Topics: Syphilis, Black people, Ethics Pages: 2 (436 words) Published: April 23, 2012
Tuskegee Syphilis Study

Magsaysay Cruz


Feb. 23, 2012
Larry Oslund

Tuskegee Syphilis Study
In 1932, the U.S. Public Health Services (USPHS) under the direction of the Chief of Venereal Disease Division, Dr. Taliaferro Clark, initiated a study of the effect of untreated syphilis n Black men. The study was conducted in Tuskegee, a town in Macon County, Alabama. The initial study is composed of 399 Black men that are infected with latent syphilis and 201 Black men that are not infected. The purpose of the study is to learn about the effects of syphilis if untreated. The original purpose of the research is good and necessary at that time, but the way they implemented it was unethical even at that period. Here are some of the unethical practices that the organization did: There was no informed consent from the participants. Patient has to agree to an autopsy after death for their funeral cost to be covered. The scientist denied treatment to some patient so they can observe the individual dangers and fatal progression of the disease. The patients were not given penicillin, the medicine that was developed to cure syphilis. They used misleading advertisement, they advertised with the slogan “LAST CHANCE FOR SPECIAL FREE TREATMENT”, the subjects were not given treatment, and instead patients were given a risky spinal tap-diagnostic procedure. The data that were collected during the research help a lot in the development of the cure for syphilis. But there are also victims here that we have to consider, like those people that were denied treatment, the 399 or so Black people of Tuskegee. These unethical behaviors could have been avoided if only they informed the patients about the nature of the research, if they tried to treat them after they got the data that they needed at that time, and if they have given them penicillin after it was discovered that it’s a cure to syphilis. Thanks to the Tuskegee incident, we...

References: Allan M. Brandt, From Hasting Center Magazine, December 1978 Reprinted with permission of The Hasting Center. Institute of Society, Ethic and the Life Sciences.
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