Worst Racial Act in an Unorthodox Study

I’ve been taking some online university classes and I learned about this study. It shows how racist people were in 1932. I couldn’t believe this. The US Public Health Services conducted a study in conjunction with the Tuskegee Institute, ( a post-secondary school for African-Americans). Six hundred Negro males from Macon CO., Alabama were chosen. The study was on the effects of untreated syphilis. Three hundred ninety-nine were already infected with syphilis and twenty-one were uninfected in the control group. The study was supposed to last six months, but continued until 1972. It was “understood” the study was to aid in the health care of the local poor population, largely African-Americans. At conclusion of the study, participants were to be given treatment for syphilis. At that time period, acceptable treatment was the use of mercury and bismuth, which was marginal in benefits, and we now know today was toxic. The participants weren’t informed of the true purpose of the study, but were told it was a treatment for “bad blood.” If they didn’t know they had syphilis, they weren’t told. To ensure the study group showed up for exams and non-therapeutic procedures, the researchers enticed them with misleading invitations for free medical care and free burial services.

In 1947, Penicillin was the accepted treatment for Syphilis. The US Public Health Service prevented study participants from receiving any kind of treatment. Researchers claimed there was a need and interest in monitoring how Syphilis spread and how it kills. Autopsies were required for the free burials of participants. Because treatment was held for these individuals, their wives became infected also with the disease. It wasn’t until 1966, when Peter Buxtun, an investigator for Public Health, determined the study was unethical and immoral and needed to stop. He wrote letters to officials in the Public Health Service, but the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention expressed a desire to continue the study until its end, which meant participants had to die and be autopsied.

In 1968, official, William Carter Jenkins called an end to the study at Tuskegee Institute in a newsletter focusing on racial discrimination. Nonetheless, the experiments continued. The US Public Health Center secured support from local chapters of the American Medical Association and the National Medical Association in 1969. By 1972, Buxtun realized his attempts to end the project was ineffective. He became a whistle blower and told a reporter for the Evening Star. Other newspapers picked up the story and it received public exposure. Finally, it was ordered to stop. By 1972, only 72 of the original participants yet lived. In 1974, a lawsuit on behalf of the participants ensued and settled for $10 million.

Learning about this, blew my mind at how wrong it was. I have to ask, were they trying to get rid of all blacks in Alabama?

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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