Tuskegee Syphilis Study

Syphilis was a widespread disease in the past and was not understood by common people and medics. This niche propelled many studies on syphilis among them the Tuskegee syphilis study (1932); that was a follow up examination after a research in Macon County by U.S health service (PHS) among African Americans. The findings of the study in Tuskegee revealed that out of 616 men on whom the research was done, 412 were diagnosed with syphilis and 204 were controls. These men had been coerced into this project by been convinced that volunteers would be given free tests for bad blood’ a local term referring to a wide range of diseases. They were given free meals and free burial insurance (Ann et. al., 1993). The study proceeded for forty years and was brought into a halt on July 25 1972 after an outrageous public reaction following Jean Halter‘s revelation about the study on media.

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The Tuskegee syphilis study defied all odds by violating human rights and hence becoming a symbol of racism in the medical field. The victims were misinformed   of the nature of the study. Contrary to their belief that they were being treated of bad blood, the study instead tortured them both mentally and physically.  Physicians in charge of the study ensured that syphilitics went untreated despite the availability of penicillin. other medics, who were aware of the loopholes continued to show support; Eunice Rivers – one of the nurses , argued that the victims received superior medical care for ailments other than syphilis than their counterparts in Macon city.

The memory of this study is still encrypted in the minds of African- Americans   even after committees were formed and President Clinton publicly apologizing to the victims on may 16 1997. Most people do not trust the medical and public health institutions anymore. The fact that the physicians were negligent of the victims and the impact of the study as well is a thot that still provokes mistrust and sadness (Ann et. al., 1993). Being a notorious study that treated African Americans as guinea pigs, it showed how racial discrimination was prevalent and how black life was not valued. Most victims died during the study leaving infected wives and children. This inhuman act is what has made Africans not to volunteer for medical research up to date. It is the reason why Africans refuse to donate organs and avoid medical treatment.

However this mistrust can be reversed only if medics follow ethical codes to the latter

Respect for persons and equity stipulated in the Belmont report is mandatory. Government admission of being on the wrong side is a step forward but should be reinforced with actions. Laying of a new foundation for a new era by President Clinton was a good impression. The government should set aside a day to commemorate the victims of the study every year all over the world. Future mistakes should be avoided in the medical field that would otherwise stir up controversy. Setting up clearing houses to aid investigators conduct ethically responsible research is vital.

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