Guatemala STD experiments echo Tuskegee experiments

Tuskegee study

The discovery of American experimentation on Guatemalans echoes the Tuskegee experiments. Image from Wikimedia Commons

There was a recent revelation that the U.S. participated in human experiments on Guatemalans. The U.S. government has issued an apology for the experiments conducted, which infected Guatemalans with syphillis. The studies echo the infamous Tuskegee experiments, where African American males were infected with the same sexually transmitted disease. The Tuskegee experiments ran for 40 years. The Guatemalan STD experiments went on for two years, and they were run by Dr. John C. Cutler, who also participated in the Tuskegee experiments.

Guatemalan study done with approval

In the early 20th century, treatment for sexually transmitted disease was not as simple as today. Now, an infected person can pick up a prescription within hours. In 1946, before penicillin had been approved for use, the U.S. Public Health Service, the National Institute of Health, the Pan American Health Sanitary Institute and the Guatemalan government approved a study on the effects of syphilis, according the MSNBC. Dr. John Cutler was put in charge of the study. There were 696 test subjects, including male prisoners and female prostitutes. Some were encouraged to catch the disease the typical way, and others were injected with the disease. Up to a third of the subjects were not even treated for the disease. The study concluded in 1948.

The Tuskegee syphilis experiments

The Tuskegee Experiments are a dark chapter in American history. From 1932 to 1972, African Americans from the South were observed to see the effects of the disease. There were 399 male subjects, all from Alabama. The study was carried out by the U.S. Public Health Service. However, there is a slight difference. Tuskegee patients were already infected with syphilis, whereas the Guatemalan STD patients were not. Another glaring difference is that up to two-thirds of the Guatemalan patients were treated. No Tuskegee patient ever received penicillin. Penicillin was the accepted treatment since 1947. The experiment ran until 1972.

Apology necessary

The heinous nature of human experimentation makes excusing them impossible. President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Health and Human Services Director Kathleen Sebelius all personally apologized to the Guatemalan people, according to CNN. That is something like a start.




Wikipedia entry on Tuskegee

Other recent posts by bryanh

climbing to retirement savings goals

Roth IRA conversions surge in 2010

Roth IRA conversions are rising as taxpayers take advantage of tax breaks and try to avoid the prospect of rising federal taxes next year...