Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

MEDIAWATCH

No strategy and a beige suit

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

The World This Week - 29 August 2014 (part 2)

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

The World This Week - 29 August 2014

Read more

ENCORE!

Alain Choquette: A Hilarious Magician in Paris

Read more

FOCUS

France welcomes Iraqi Christian refugees

Read more

FRANCE IN FOCUS

Emmanuel Macron: A new economy minister with a pro-business agenda

Read more

THE OBSERVERS

More of this year's best Observers stories

Read more

#TECH 24

Changing the world, one video game at a time

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

Socialist Party summer conference kicks off in explosive atmosphere

Read more

  • Exclusive: Fabius warns of further sanctions against Russia

    Read more

  • Experimental Ebola drug ‘ZMapp’ heals all monkeys in study

    Read more

  • IMF stands behind Lagarde amid French corruption probe

    Read more

  • Ukraine to relaunch NATO membership bid

    Read more

  • Suriname leader’s son pleads guilty to courting Hezbollah

    Read more

  • British killer escapes from French psychiatric hospital

    Read more

  • Chelsea’s Torres set for AC Milan switch

    Read more

  • Police hunt for British boy with brain tumour taken to France

    Read more

  • France shines in IMF list of world’s promising economists

    Read more

  • Mapping Ukraine: Canada and Russia in ‘tweet for tat’ row

    Read more

  • First case of Ebola confirmed in Senegal

    Read more

  • Obama has 'no strategy yet' on potential Syria strikes

    Read more

  • Netflix to woo French with ‘House of Cards’ set in Marseille

    Read more

  • French businesses ‘hoping for a new Thatcher’

    Read more

  • Syrian refugees surpass 3 million, UN says

    Read more

  • West backs Ukrainian claims of Russian incursion

    Read more

  • Libyan PM resigns as Islamists set up rival administration

    Read more

  • UN says 43 peacekeepers captured in Golan Heights

    Read more

  • The deleted tweets of Manuel Valls

    Read more

  • Peru seizes record 6.5 tonnes of Europe-bound cocaine

    Read more

SCIENCE

US apologises for syphilis tests on Guatemalan prisoners

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-10-02

The United States has apologised for an experiment conducted in the 1940s in which government researchers deliberately infected unknowing Guatemalan prison inmates and mental patients with sexually transmitted infections in order to test penicillin.

AP - American scientists deliberately infected prisoners and patients in a mental hospital in Guatemala with syphilis 60 years ago, a recently unearthed experiment that prompted U.S. officials to apologize Friday and declare outrage over “such reprehensible research.”

The U.S. government-funded experiment, which ran from 1946 to 1948, was discovered by a Wellesley College medical historian. It apparently was conducted to test whether penicillin, then relatively new, could prevent infection with sexually transmitted diseases. The study came up with no useful information and was hidden for decades.
 
Two members of President Barack Obama’s Cabinet apologized to the Guatemalan government for the tests, and the White House press secretary, Robert Gibbs, said the medical experimentation was “shocking, it’s tragic, it’s reprehensible.”
 
Obama telephoned Guatemalan President Alvaro Colon to apologize personally.
 
The government researcher who led the work in Guatemala also was involved in this country’s infamous Tuskegee experiment, where from 1932 to 1972 scientists tracked 600 black men in Alabama who had syphilis but did not know it, without ever offering them treatment.
 
“We are outraged that such reprehensible research could have occurred under the guise of public health,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Friday.
 
Strict regulations today make clear that it is unethical to experiment on people without their consent and require special steps for any work with such vulnerable populations as prisoners. But such regulations did not exist in the 1940s.
 
Guatemalan Embassy official Fernando de la Cerda said his country had known nothing about the experiment until Clinton called to apologize Thursday night.
 
“We appreciate this gesture from the USA., acknowledging the mistake and apologizing,” he said. “This must not affect the bilateral relationship.”
 
Strict today’s regulations make clear that it is unethical to experiment on people without their consent and require special steps for any work with such vulnerable populations as prisoners. But such regulations did not exist in the 1940s.
 
The U.S. government ordered two independent investigations to uncover exactly what happened in Guatemala and to make sure current bioethics rules are adequate. They will be led by the prestigious Institute of Medicine and the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues.
 
The U.S. government ordered two independent investigations to uncover exactly what happened in Guatemala and to make sure current bioethics rules are adequate. They will be led by the prestigious Institute of Medicine and the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues.
 
While deliberately trying to infect people with serious diseases is abhorrent today, the Guatemalan experiment is not the only example from what National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins on Friday called “a dark chapter in the history of medicine.” Forty similar deliberate-infection studies were conducted in the United States during that period, Collins said.
 
In Guatemala, 696 men and women were exposed to syphilis or in some cases gonorrhea, through jail visits by prostitutes or, when that did not infect enough people, by deliberately inoculating them, reported Wellesley College historian Susan Reverby. Those who were infected were offered penicillin, but it was not clear how many were infected and how many were treated successfully.
 
She reported that the United States had gained permission from Guatemalan officials to conduct the study, but did not inform the experimental subjects.
 
Reverby’s work was reported first by NBC News. She uncovered the records of Dr. John Cutler, a prominent government scientist of the 1940s, while researching the Tuskegee experiment for a recent book. She posted on her website a copy of an article about the findings that is to be published in January in an academic journal. A speech she gave on her findings last spring alerted government health officials to her findings, resulting in Friday’s apology.
 
The revelation of abuses by a U.S. medical research program is only the latest chapter in the United States’ troubled history with the impoverished Central American nation, which has a per capita gross domestic product about half that of the rest of Central America and the Caribbean.
 
The U.S. helped topple the democratically elected president Jacobo Arbenz in 1954 and backed several hard-line governments during a 36-year civil war that ended in 1996 and cost 200,000 lives.
 
Photo courtesy of Flickr user rabbit845 under the Creative Commons license.

 

Date created : 2010-10-02

COMMENT(S)