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Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment Essay Research Paper Between

Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment Essay, Research Paper Between 1932 and 1972, the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS) conducted an experiment on 399 black men in the late stages of syphilis. These men, for

Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment Essay, Research Paper

Between 1932 and 1972, the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS) conducted an

experiment on 399 black men in the late stages of syphilis. These men, for

the most part

illiterate sharecroppers from one of the poorest counties in Alabama, were

never told what

disease they were suffering from or of its seriousness. Informed that they

were being

treated for ?bad blood,? their doctors had no intention of curing them of

syphilis at all.

The data for the experiment was to be collected from autopsies of the men,

and they were

thus deliberately left to degenerate under the ravages of tertiary syphilis?which

can

include tumors, heart disease, paralysis, blindness, insanity, and death. One

of the doctors

involved said: ?we have no further interest in these patients until they

die.?

The sharecroppers’ easy to manipulate because they were poor and liked the

idea of

free medical care, said James Jones. He also said they were pawns in ?the

longest non-

therapeutic experiment on human beings in medical history.?

The study was to compare blacks and whites reaction to syphilis, thinking

that whites

experienced more neurological complications from syphilis whereas blacks

would have

more cardiovascular damage. How this knowledge would have changed clinical

treatment

of syphilis is uncertain. It took almost forty years before someone involved

in the study

took a hard and honest look at the end results, concluding that ?nothing

learned will

prevent, find, or cure a single case of infectious syphilis or bring us

closer to our basic

mission of controlling venereal disease in the United States.? When the

media caught a

hold of the experiment in 1972, news anchor Harry Reasoner described it as an

experiment that ?used human beings as laboratory animals in a long and

inefficient study

of how long it takes syphilis to kill someone.?

By the end of the experiment, 28 of the men had died directly of syphilis,

100 were

dead of complications of the disease, 40 of their wives had been infected,

and 19 of their

children had congenital syphilis. To get the community to support the

experiment, one of

the original doctors admitted it ?was necessary to carry on this study

under the guise of a

demonstration and provide treatment.? At first, the men were prescribed ?syphilis

remedies of the day,? bismuth, neoarsphenamine, and mercury, but in such

small amounts

that only 3 percent showed any improvement. These token doses of medicine

were good

public relations and did not interfere with the true aims of the study.

Eventually, all

syphilis treatment was replaced with ?pink medicine? aspirin. To ensure

that the men

would show up for a painful and potentially dangerous spinal tap, ?the PHS

doctors

misled them with a letter full of promotional hype:? ?Last Chance for

Special Free

Treatment.? The fact that autopsies would eventually be required was also

concealed. A

doctor explained, ?If the colored population becomes aware that accepting

free hospital

care means a post-mortem, every darky will leave Macon County . . .? Even

the Surgeon

General of the United States participated in enticing the men to remain in

the experiment,

sending them certificates of appreciation after 25 years in the study.

Believe it or not, not only white people took part in the experiment, black

people

were also involved. The experiment’s name comes from the Tuskegee Institute,

the black

university founded by Booker T. Washington. Its affiliated hospital lent the

PHS its

medical facilities for the study, and other predominantly black institutions

as well as local

black doctors also participated. Eunice Rivers, a black nurse, played a huge

part in the

experiment for 40 years. A lot of them did it for the promise of great

recognition. A

Tuskegee doctor, for example, praised ?the educational advantages offered

our interns

and nurses as well as the added standing it will give the hospital.? Nurse

Rivers said her

role as one of ?passive obedience:? ?we were taught that we never

diagnosed, we never

prescribed; we followed the doctor’s instructions!? It is clear that the

men in the

experiment trusted her and that she sincerely cared about their well-being,

but not

enough. Even after the experiment was ?exposed to public scrutiny,? she

pretty much felt

nothing ethical was wrong.

One of the scariest aspects of the experiment was how strongly the PHS kept

these

men from receiving treatment. When several nationwide campaigns to erase

venereal

disease came to Macon County, the men were prevented from participating. Even

when

penicillin was discovered in the 1940s?the first real cure for syphilis?the

Tuskegee

men were deliberately denied the medication. During World War II, 250 of the

men

registered for the draft and were consequently ordered to get treatment for

syphilis, only

to have the PHS exempt them. Pleased at their success, the PHS representative

stated: ?So

far, we are keeping the known positive patients from getting treatment.?

The experiment

continued in spite of the Henderson Act (1943), a public health law requiring

testing and

treatment for venereal disease, and in spite of the World Health

Organization’s

Declaration of Helsinki (1964), which specified that ?informed consent?

was needed for

experiment involving human beings.

The story finally got into the Washington Star on July 25, 1972, in an

article by

Jean Heller of the Associated Press. Her source was Peter Buxtun, a former

PHS venereal

disease interviewer and one of the few ?whistle blowers? over the years.

The PHS,

however, remained unmoved, claiming the men had been ?volunteers? and ?were

always

happy to see the doctors,? and an Alabama state health officer who had been

involved

claimed ?somebody is trying to make a mountain out of a molehill.?

Finally because of the publicity, the government ended their experiment, and

for

the first time provided the men with effective medical treatment for

syphilis. Fred Gray, a

lawyer who had previously defended Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, filed a

class

action suit that provided a $10 million out-of-court settlement for the men

and their

families.

The PHS did not accept the media’s comparison of Tuskegee with the appalling

experiments performed by Nazi doctors on their Jewish victims during World

War II. Yet

in addition to the medical and racist parallels, the PHS offered the same ?morally

bankrupt? defense offered at the Nuremberg trials: they claimed they were

just carrying

out orders, mere cogs in the wheel of the PHS bureaucracy, exempt from

personal

responsibility.

The study’s other justification?for the greater good of science?is

equally stupid.

Now my in opinion, Clinton said it best when he said: ?The United States

government did

something that was wrong?deeply, profoundly, morally wrong. It was an

outrage to our

commitment to integrity and equality for all our citizens. . . . clearly

racist.? May 16,

1997.

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