Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Tuskegee, Guatemala, and a National Shame

Photo Credit: National Archives
Some recent research has shed a troubling light on a dark blemish in our nation's history.  In the middle part of the 20th century, the United States government conducted some unethical and immoral scientific studies on unsuspecting victims.

The first of these studies, commonly referred to as the "Tuskegee Study", took place from the 1930's through the early 1970's and has been known about for some time.  The Tuskegee Study took place when over 400 black men from Alabama who had been infected with a sexually transmitted disease, syphilis, were led to believe that they were receiving free treatment when they were, in fact, being left untreated and were being examined for the effects of syphilis.  President Clinton public acknowledged this horror and publicly apologized in 1997. 

Another study similar to Tuskegee has been recently discovered that took place in Guatemala during the 1940's.  In the study that was conducted in Guatemala, jailed men were intentionally exposed to infected prostitutes and then received treatment afterward.  This experiment was also conducted by the U.S government.  Linda Villarosa penned an insightful column on these findings for here

Having learned about the Tuskegee Study in college, I was not surprised to learn of what happened in Guatemala.  This is not to say that it does not disgust me, nonetheless.  Even though there are many great things about the United States, our government has committed (and still commits) some pretty horrible things.  We have bombed innocent people, we have enslaved and jailed our own citizens because of the color of their skin or their country of origin and have treated human beings as lab rats in the name of science.

In learning about these things, it should come as no surprise that some members of certain ethnic communities remain distrustful of the government when "help" is offered.  Look at what Villarosa has to say:
"Numerous studies have shown that African Americans remain much less likely to get immunizations of any kind. For older African Americans, who more often than their peers of other races have heart disease, diabetes and other serious illnesses, a flu shot can mean the difference between life and death. African Americans of all ages avoid shots -- and the health care system in general -- out of mistrust. Last year, during the height of the H1N1 hysteria, a widely circulated Twitter message warned, "Don't take the swine flu vaccine. Remember the Tuskegee Experiment."

By and large, though, it's not a hazy memory of the Tuskegee episode that's fueling suspicion and distrust of the system. Most of us are too young to remember it; even Dr. Cutler is long gone. Rather, our broken and battered current health care system is what is driving African Americans away from treatment and care. It's been a decade since Congress first admitted officially what 37 million black people already know: that the U.S. medical care system doesn't treat us well. A damning 2002 report by the well-respected Institute of Medicine called "Unequal Treatment: Confronting Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health Care" laid it out point by ugly point for Congress and everyone else. And according to numerous studies, little has changed."
To read more on the Tuskegee Study, click here and to read Professor Susan Reverby's article on Guatemala click here.

(h/t to the Black Voices blog for the link)


Anonymous said...

Here's a piece 60 minutes did a while back about eugenics in the US.

Anthony Thumann said...

The United States was the first country in the history of the world to use a biological weapon on another human being. This happened to the BlackFeet Indian population in Montana. The US military could not defeat them so they decided to reduce the population in order to round up what was left and but them in concentration camps called resorvations. The weapon was Small Pox and it worked very well with one exception. Small Pox will linger in the environment. So the problem is how to deliver a biological weapon into a group of people with out the agent lingering in the atmosphere. The answer is direct blood contact. Now there is only two way to do this and that is either inject it into the people directly like the United States did in the Congo injecting over a million people or by sex which the United State did to the homosexual population in the United States. Even that they had to first inject 300 men in 5 major cities and wait to see the virus spred through that population. Tell me something Americans just exactly how twisted and sick can you get..........