The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment (399 Black Men)

Discussion in 'IntroSpectrum' started by B. Fury, Mar 20, 2008.

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  1. B. Fury

    B. Fury Active Member

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    The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment

    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.

    —President Clinton's apology for the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment to the eight remaining survivors, May 16, 1997

    For forty years 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,”1 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. “As I see it,” one of the doctors involved explained, “we have no further interest in these patients until they die.”

    Using Human Beings as Laboratory Animals

    The true nature of the experiment had to be kept from the subjects to ensure their cooperation. The sharecroppers' grossly disadvantaged lot in life made them easy to manipulate. Pleased at the prospect of free medical care—almost none of them had ever seen a doctor before—these unsophisticated and trusting men became the pawns in what James Jones, author of the excellent history on the subject, Bad Blood, identified as “the longest nontherapeutic experiment on human beings in medical history.”

    The study was meant to discover how syphilis affected blacks as opposed to whites—the theory being that whites experienced more neurological complications from syphilis whereas blacks were more susceptible to cardiovascular damage. How this knowledge would have changed clinical treatment of syphilis is uncertain. Although the PHS touted the study as one of great scientific merit, from the outset its actual benefits were hazy. It took almost forty years before someone involved in the study took a hard and honest look at the end results, reporting 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 experiment was brought to the attention of the media 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.”

    A Heavy Price in the Name of Bad Science

    By the end of the experiment, 28 of the men had died directly of syphilis, 100 were dead of related complications, 40 of their wives had been infected, and 19 of their children had been born with congenital syphilis. How had these men been induced to endure a fatal disease in the name of science? To persuade 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 the 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. As 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.

    Following Doctors' Orders

    It takes little imagination to ascribe racist attitudes to the white government officials who ran the experiment, but what can one make of the numerous African Americans who collaborated with them? 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. A black nurse, Eunice Rivers, was a central figure in the experiment for most of its forty years. The promise of recognition by a prestigious government agency may have obscured the troubling aspects of the study for some. 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 explained 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 her unquestioning submission to authority eclipsed her moral judgment. Even after the experiment was exposed to public scrutiny, she genuinely felt nothing ethical had been amiss.
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  2. B. Fury

    B. Fury Active Member

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    One of the most chilling aspects of the experiment was how zealously the PHS kept these men from receiving treatment. When several nationwide campaigns to eradicate 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 announced: “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.

    Blowing the Whistle

    The story finally broke in 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 unrepentant, 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.”

    Under the glare of 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. Gray, however, named only whites and white organizations in the suit, portraying Tuskegee as a black and white case when it was in fact more complex than that—black doctors and institutions had been involved from beginning to end.

    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 spurious. Scientific protocol had been shoddy from the start. Since the men had in fact received some medication for syphilis in the beginning of the study, however inadequate, it thereby corrupted the outcome of a study of “untreated syphilis.”

    In 1990, a survey found that 10 percent of African Americans believed that the U.S. government created AIDS as a plot to exterminate blacks, and another 20 percent could not rule out the possibility that this might be true. As preposterous and paranoid as this may sound, at one time the Tuskegee experiment must have seemed equally farfetched. Who could imagine the government, all the way up to the Surgeon General of the United States, deliberately allowing a group of its citizens to die from a terrible disease for the sake of an ill-conceived experiment? In light of this and many other shameful episodes in our history, African Americans' widespread mistrust of the government and white society in general should not be a surprise to anyone. —BB
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  3. Riz

    Riz Well-Known Member

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    Up until recently nearly all medical research was unethical and "morally wrong". All races and many different species suffered from it.
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  4. Dark_Sun

    Dark_Sun Phantom of the Forums

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    But the difference is the US Public Health Service knew that the men had syphillis and at that time there was methods of treatment for it that they intentionally withheld from the men. The first antibiotic to be used for the treatment of syphilis was developed in 1908 so those men suffered unnecessarily and not as a result of trying to find a better method of treatment or anything like that.
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  5. 1.) Good to see Clipboard, Copy, and Paste still exist in new computers.

    2.) Thank you for going over a topic that gets brought up in this forum at least once a season as if this "SUPER SEKRIT CONSPIRACY" wasn't taught to us in 7th grade by Social Studies teachers.

    3.) 399 black men? That's it? I'm expected to give a shit about 399 people being "swindled" by the government? Have you ever heard of a thing called "taxes"?

    4.) Whatever black people go through, other people go through 100x worse.

    Welcome to History.

    Welcome to the Internet.

    If you take offense at something, you will be crushed by the unforgiving masses here. So I advise not going through history with the intent of fabricating outrage.

    You probably didn't understand that.

    Please response by going after who I am and not my content. That's also the rule here.
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  6. Dark_Sun

    Dark_Sun Phantom of the Forums

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    Injustice is injustice whether that affects 1 person or millions. Noone is making light of all the other injustices out there against other people so why are you trying to dismiss this as insignificant? There are a lot of cases that go unnoticed that the media doesn't even know about or that they just refuse to focus on. That too is as significant as stuff that is heavily focused on or blown out of proportion by the media....
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  7. Offbeat

    Offbeat New Member

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    dude there illeterate and had syphallus

    its not like society lost some integral member
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  8. Dark_Sun

    Dark_Sun Phantom of the Forums

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    So being illiterate and having an STD completely voids a human life of any value? What about their wives and children? Did they have to suffer too?
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  9. Nigga McBlack

    Nigga McBlack New Member

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    who says human lives have any value?

    who determines what is just and unjust?

    an invisible man up in the sky?

    fuck off you emotional twat.
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  10. McGirth

    McGirth New Member

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    I think your all ignoring something extremely pertinent here: these people died IN VAIN.
    i.e. the science did not pan out.

    Basically the Regulatory board here had this utilitarian equation in mind:
    1) LIVES - the comfort/lives of those who died
    2) HYPE - hypothetically, perhaps in the future some sort of help that may occur for millions, but no guarentees or even moderate probability of this being the case AND no indication that this was the only way to conduct the experiements.

    Basically they chose: hype>actual lives.

    ethical standards were breached for what? People were dehumanized for what?

    for a hypothesis, that turned out to be wrong. In a case, where alternate sorts of testing would have revealed that the hypothesis was wrong anyway in time.

    The comparison to Nazi Germany is accurate here, where they made the same ethical choice conducting horrific experiments on the jews. And just as was the case here, their science didn't pan out either.
    Teh vast majority of the unethical experiements ended up being nothing more than junk science.
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  11. Dark_Sun

    Dark_Sun Phantom of the Forums

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    So you can take your own life knowing that it doesn't have any value or purpose then right?

    The people determine what is just and unjust. We have laws in place that protect everyone's basic right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The men who died in vain were not afforded those basic rights.

    And no one mentioned religion in this thread but you so don't make this a religious issue.
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  12. People were dehumanized? What?

    Why are people humanized in the first place? Some childish assumption that people are humans by default? Because science said so? Because God said so? We live in a culture who defies traditional morality and zealously adheres to a power-oriented definition of Marxist-inspired morality. (Power being based off of which political group can induce those biological impulses toward their desired ends) These same biological impulses were evolutionary wired into us to adapt to a certain kind of survival method that environment we no longer participate in. Therefore, even the Marxist definition of social justice is fucking stupid for being mob-dependent.

    I judge a life form the same way evolution judges it: Either adapt or get the fuck out of the way.

    To make the judgment call about scientific progress, McGirth, you cannot view that event anachronistically. In that time period, state-sponsored eugenics was an acceptable science across the world... and it still is.
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  13. McGirth

    McGirth New Member

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    ^ its pretty much the basic assumption of western legal/political order, including of the US, england, france, canada, australia, etc...

    Classical humanism, secular humanism, liberalism, conservativism, and monotheistic religious viewpoints all have the assumption as part of their core element.

    Marxism, Facism, and Anarchism, and Social-Darwinians are all opposed to the basic assumption. Basically all the social orders that have failed.

    I don't feel the need to justify these basic assumptions, being in the west they are virtually irrebutably presumed and history has confirmed them. Its on you to rebut, and your standard of proof is extremely high, just as a primer: no wishy washy evidence, links to stuff that does not prove your point, hype based arguments, fear based arguments that "if we don't abandon then this will happen", etc.
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  14. Stop hiding behind terminology as if it's deep roots somehow validate your reasoning.

    That's like saying America was founded as a Judeo-Christian Nation and never questioning it.

    Western morality is shaped by the economics, environment, and thousands of years of culture. The people who partook in this process sum up that experience as those assumptive core elements you discuss, but that doesn't mean that the map is the territory!

    Humans assume that a massive activity of electrons, giving off photons of a specific wavelength as fire. Giving 'fire' an easy to remember name doesn't give it magical, mystical properties. The generalized name doesn't offer precision to how microcosm within operates.

    Don't come in here on that morality shit when you, yourself, are unable to comprehend the biological functionality, the evolutionary pressures responsible, and the neurochemical foundations that single-handedly determine why the generalization of 'human morality' even exists.

    Going at it from the mob layer down sounds all nice and pretty and socially romantic and can convince the people around you because they, too, are collectively stupid. But none of it provides any insight to the mechanics that the philosophical generalizations attempt to describe. (and often fail)

    The rebuttal, in short: Your 'philosophical foundations' that you refuse to question are generalizations caused by a lack of precision and lack of critical thought.

    You 'assume' morality as if it was Universal.

    Morality -IS NOT- universal. We've just successfully implemented information technology to create the infrastructure to give the APPEARANCE of universality.
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  15. McGirth

    McGirth New Member

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    ^ again, not "my reasoning" but the wests, including all the said contries and religious/moral/political orders mentioned. These doctrines are freely available on the net for you to look up and refute here. Lets start with the obvious,

    ever have a look at your country's constitution?

    if you (or the anarchist/marxist/social darwinist/fasciest, post-modern viewpoint your adopting) don't hold these truths to be self-evident, its up to you to rebut.
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  16. Offbeat

    Offbeat New Member

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    yeah they suffered because their fathers/husbands were unproductive
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  17. Dark_Sun

    Dark_Sun Phantom of the Forums

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    ^Bafoonery like that deserves to be ignored...
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  18. BlackSoultan Ad Infinitum

    BlackSoultan Ad Infinitum aka Billy Shoreview

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    Shhh! Stop it! I wanna watch ghet and rich wine and pull the race card. It's like watching the pauly shore video all over again.
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  19. BlackSoultan Ad Infinitum

    BlackSoultan Ad Infinitum aka Billy Shoreview

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    [dunno] Are you new??!?
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  20. BlackSoultan Ad Infinitum

    BlackSoultan Ad Infinitum aka Billy Shoreview

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    ...and ••••••s were originally transleucent, chicks with dicks are hot, and blacks are better off because of slavery...
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