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Tuskegee Syphilis Study Running head: THE TUSKEGEE SYPHILIS STUDY

The Tuskegee Syphilis StudyEssay Nancy R. McCulloch Grand Canyon University: 354 November 18, 2012

Tuskegee Syphilis Study The Tuskegee Syphilis Essay This essay discusses the medical experiments which were conducted by the United States Public Health Service between 1932 and 1972 in Tuskegee Alabama. 399 African -American adult male subjects were examined and diagnosed as having late stage syphilis. The main goal of the study was to periodically examine these men to determine how their bodies were affected by the syphilis disease. The thesis of this essay is that based on moral and ethical grounds, the Tuskegee experiments were indefensible. In 1932, he U. S. government announced a new health program in Macon County, Alabama. This program included free examinations and was directed toward male AfricanAmericans. When the government tested 3,684 males, they found 1,468 cases of syphilis. Initial testing reduced that number to 408 subjects. Free medical treatments were offered for their bad blood even though the main commitment of this study was to determine the effects that untreated syphilis would have on the human body over a period of time.

A control group of 200 men was added in the second phase for evaluation to the syphilitic group. This group was told that they would also be receiving free treatment. Neither the syphilitic nor the control group had any recourse to local hospitals or doctors and the local hospitals were told that they could not treat any patient in the government program Appointments had to be scheduled with the government doctors who told the groups that they were receiving penicillin. In reality, they were just receiving aspirin or some other ineffective treatment. Because the syphilis had not been treated the participants began to die and the doctors then performed autopsies, without obtaining permission from the family of the deceased. (Gray,1998).

By 1947, programs for the treatment of syphilis were available to others in Macon County but the participants in Tuskegee Study were prevented by the scientists from

Tuskegee Syphilis Study accessing these other programs that were using penicillin as the standard treatment for syphilis. The doctors involved in this study could have decided to treat all syphilitic

subjects which would have eventually ended the study. However, the study was continued by the Tuskegee scientists without treating any of the patients and by withholding not only the penicillin but also any information which could have helped them. The final phase of the study occurred between 1965 and 1972. Over two-thirds of the original participants were deceased and they had difficulty locating the other 200. The climate of race relationships was changing and the morality and ethics of the study was beginning to come into question. However, this study continued until there was a leak to the press in1972, which eventually resulted in termination of study. The victims of the study included numerous men who died of syphilis, wives who contracted the disease and children born with congenital syphilis. In 1972, the first lawsuit, Pollock vs United States government was filed. The government by knowing that the participants had syphilis and failing to treat them was charged with violating the rights of the participants. The Public Health Service was also charged with leading the participants to believe they were being properly treated for whatever diseases they had, and that they had failed to obtain the written consent of the participants. It also appeared as if that the study was racially motivated because it appeared to discriminate against African-Americans, since it did not select any white males to participate in this study. The final charge stated that there were no rules or regulations had been developed to govern the study. (Gray, 1998). Unfortunately, human beings have been used as unwitting guinea pigs in other so-called scientific studies. However, The Tuskegee Syphilis Study was the most infamous biomedical research study in U.S. history. It led to the 1979 Belmont report on the ethics of research involving human subjects and the establishment of the Office for Human Research Protection. It

Tuskegee Syphilis Study also led to federal laws and regulations requiring Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) for the protection of human subjects involved in scientific studies. The Office for Human Research Protection manages this responsibility within the US Department of Health and Human Services.

In 1973, the lawsuit ended in victory for the participants with $10 million split between the living syphilitics and families of the deceased. President Bill Clinton formally apologized for this injustice, but only seven men were alive to hear the apology.

Tuskegee Syphilis Study References Gray, F.D., (1998), the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, Montgomery: New South Books, from