U.S. Government Holding Unethical Studies?


            In class we talked about how many experiments scientists have trouble doing due to them being unethical to humans. This effect is hard on the future of medicines because it would essentially be easier and faster to obtain information by using humans directly. This unethical subject has got me interested into if United States has ever done any unethical human studies and by surprise they have. It was called the "Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male" ("Bad").            


           Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease and can be passed from a mother to her unborn baby. This disease is a "bacterial infection of the genital tract by the bacterium Treponema Pallidum". During the first stage of Syphilis (between one to five weeks) the disease is extremely contagious and can be spread from person to person through contact with an ulcer or a rash located on the hands. If not taken care of early, the disease can reach the bloodstream. During the last stage the disease is no longer as contagious, though it can reach the heart and brain. This in return can cause damage to internal organs and result in death ("What").

            The study was located in Macon City, Alabama where the Public Health Service worked along with the Tuskegee Institute due to the increasing amount of Syphilis cases. The study was only suppose to last six months but instead lasted forty years. Scientists split 600 African America men into two groups. The experiment group consisted of 399 men who had the disease and the control group had 201 men. Third variables like the ages of the men or the fact that other health problems the men could have had at that time could have played a huge role in the study that were not taken into a count. The men who participated in this study were poor and government knowing this offered the men things they couldn't resist. This included transportation and food on the days of medical exams. The men were also told that they were being treated for "bad blood", meaning diseases that affect the blood like: anemia and syphilis. The study began in 1932 and at that time there was no known treatment for Syphilis but by 1947 as the studies were still going on Penicillin became the main treatment for Syphilis and the government held back the medicine from their patients ("About").

            In 1972, nearly forty years later, the writer Jean Heller from the New York Times wrote an article that had unraveled and revealed this unethical study. In 1973 about nine million dollars was given to the patients and their families, along with other benefits such as "free medical and burial services". Then on May 16, 1997 the surviving men of the study were asked to visit the White House where President Clinton had given an apology "on behalf of the United States government" to those men. The President's speech and a victim's speech is in this video below and to actually read the President's speech is located here.

            It's scary to think that our government of the United States of America would be found secretly doing studies unethically to our people. Especially when we trust our government to make the best decisions for the people. With one study there has to be more...has anyone else found any other studies that the U.S has done unethically? If so, what was it and what was the reasoning behind their unethical study?


Works Cited: 

"About the USPHS Syphilis Study." Tuskegee University. 4 Oct. 2013 <http://www.tuskegee.edu/about_us/centers_of_excellence/bioethics_center/about_the_usphs_syphilis_study.aspx>.

"Bad Blood: The Tuskegee Syphilis Study." University of Virginia. 4 Oct. 2013 <http://exhibits.hsl.virginia.edu/badblood/>.

"What is Syphilis? What causes Syphilis?" Medical News Today. 4 Oct. 2013


"U.S. Public Health Service Syphilis Study at Tuskegee Institute." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 5 Oct. 2013 <http://www.cdc.gov/tuskegee/timeline.htm>.

Video of President's Speech:


Photo of Syphilis rash on the hands:



After I read your blog I was so disappointed in the government for doing this study! It took advantage of those poor men and it was completely unethical! I remember when we talked about blood letting in class and I still can't believe that the U.S. ever practiced that. I thought that the government had totally established that only ethical practices would be done but I guess not. I found a study that was done in 1963 where, "Researchers injected cancer cells into 19 old and debilitated patients at a Jewish Chronic Disease Hospital in Brooklyn, N.Y., to see if they would be rejected." This made my jaw drop to the table in disgust. I cannot believe that any researcher would ever inject someone with cancer cells and basically send them to their death. I also found out that the patients that this happened to did not know they were being injected with the cells, which makes the experiment twice as terrible and unethical. I found this study on the website below if you want to take a look at it!


It truly is disgusting to know our government did that to its own people. It does make you think what else goes on behind closed doors that we are completely unaware of. In the 1950's our government started Project MKUltra. The goal of this program was to find ways to get confessions out of people and other things that and other things such as mind control. The CIA went about this in a completely unethical way and actually broke Nuremberg Code. A big part of what they did was administer LSD to unknowing people to study the results the drug had on them. These were administered to prostitutes, mental patients, and prisoners...or as one agency member put it "people that couldn't fight back". If you would like to read more about it, I posted an article about it.


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