Tuskegee syphilis experiment was carried out in Tuskegee, Alabama, in the United States in 1972. In this experiment, three hundred and ninety-nine African-American men were recruited to participate. Most of these participants were illiterate, and they did not understand the purpose of that experiment. The experiment’s focus was to study the natural progression of syphilis which was untreated until the participants died. There was controversy in this experiment, which led to legal protections for all clinical trials and study participants. During the recruitment of participants in this study, their informed consent was not taken, nor were they informed of the experiment they were taking part in and how they were to be treated (Alsan, Wanamaker & Hardeman, 2020). The researchers compensated the participants with free transportation, medical care, insurance for burial in the cases they died, and meals.
These researchers also warned the participants against using penicillin for the treatment of their condition. Penicillin because a standard drug of choice in treating this condition in the 1940s. The research subjects were advised not to seek medical advice from those who did not participate in the study. One of the main objectives of this study was it determine the significance of the treatment they gave the target population (Barrett, 2019). Its purpose was to recognize the various stages of syphilis development to develop medication that can be used to treat the different stages of disease progression.
The three hundred and ninety-nine black men recruited were infected with syphilis so that the researchers can study disease progression for the subsequent years till the subjects died. They died painfully due to multiple failures of organs in the body. The researcher already discovered penicillin drugs hid information regarding penicillin as the treatment of choice in syphilis. The scientists wanted to continue studying to understand how syphilis spread and how it can lead to death. Complication developed by the participants due to syphilis includes blindness and insanity (Alsan, Wanamaker & Hardeman, 2020). The study subjects were subjected to spinal taps, blood draws, and autopsies by medical staff who were whites.
The survivors of this study reported that the medical professionals were diagnosed with a disease called bad blood, which they believed they were being managed. Twenty-eight of the subjects had died due to the disease condition, and 100 of them died due to complications of syphilis. Forty of the patients’ wives were infected with syphilis, and 19 children born to this woman contracted syphilis during birth (Barrett, 2019). Within the same year, Jean Heller, who was associated with the press, exposed the Tuskegee study experiment. Buxton was the one who leaked the story to their friend who was a reporter Jean Heller.
Thus exposure led to broad public outrage within the US. The experiment was a violation of the ethical standards of human rights. This exposure narrated the deception that was going on in this experiment. This exposure led to the end of this experiment and the Belmont report in 1979. This also led to the development of the national human investigation board and institutional review board. These institutional boards formed regulations and laws that protect human subjects involved in studies (Alsan, Wanamaker & Hardeman, 2020). This insight into this experiment led to the distrust of medical scientists across the US.
Alsan, M., Wanamaker, M., & Hardeman, R. R. (2020). The Tuskegee Study of untreated syphilis: a case study in peripheral trauma with implications for health professionals. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 35(1), 322-325. Web.
Barrett, L. A. (2019). Tuskegee syphilis study of 1932–1973 and the rise of bioethics as shown through government documents and actions. DttP: Documents to the People, 47(4), 11-16. Web.