Ethics and Medicine: The Guatemalan Syphilis Crisis

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In addition to the Tuskegee Syphilis Study and the heartbreaking story of Henrietta Lacks, the US has recently admitted to and apologized for experimentation they did on prisoners, mental patients and soliders in Guatemala in the 1940s. In addition to using tax dollars to pay infected prostitutes to sleep with prisoners, officials also did things such as pour “the bacteria onto scrapes made on their penises, faces or arms, and in some cases it was injected by spinal puncture.” (source) This activity happened

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at the same time the US was involved in prosecuting Nazis for committing similar crimes in concentration camps across Europe.

The ‘purpose’ of the study was to look at the effects of penicillin on the disease but although the infected were treated with the drug “whether everyone was cured is not clear”. Perhaps it is no surprise that Doctor John Cutler was behind this study and was also the driving force between the reprehensible Tuskegee Study, which he defended throughout his life.

This continues the seemingly endless dark history of the practice of medical experimentation on human beings, without their consent.

From 1963 to 1966, researchers at the Willowbrook State School on Staten Island infected … children [with disabilities] with hepatitis to test gamma globulin against it. And in 1963, elderly patients at the Brooklyn Jewish Chronic Disease Hospital were injected with live cancer cells to see if they caused tumors. (source)

Further Reading:

Image Credit: Syphilitic Diseases by Taberandrew

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In addition to the Tuskegee Syphilis Study and the heartbreaking story of Henrietta Lacks, the US has recently admitted to and apologized for experimentation they did on prisoners, mental patients and soliders in Guatemala in the 1940s. In addition to using tax dollars to pay infected prostitutes to sleep with prisoners, officials also did things such as pour “the bacteria onto scrapes made on their penises, faces or arms, and in some cases it was injected by spinal puncture.” (source) This activity happened at the same time the US was involved in prosecuting Nazis for committing similar crimes in concentration camps across Europe.
The ‘purpose’ of the study was to look at the effects of penicillin on the disease but although the infected were treated with the drug “whether everyone was cured is not clear”. Perhaps it is no surprise that Doctor John Cutler was behind this study and was also the driving force between the reprehensible Tuskegee Study, which he defended throughout his life.
This continues the seemingly endless dark history of the practice of medical experimentation on human beings, without their consent.
From 1963 to 1966, researchers at the Willowbrook State School on Staten Island infected … children [with disabilities] with hepatitis to test gamma globulin against it. And in 1963, elderly patients at the Brooklyn Jewish Chronic Disease Hospital were injected with live cancer cells to see if they caused tumors. (source)
Further Reading:
The Tuskegee Syphilis Study: Another Look at Unethical Medicine
Henrietta Lacks and the Tragic Story of Medical Ethics, Racial Politics and Health Care Reform in America
Image Credit: Syphilitic Diseases by Taberandrew
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