U.S and their Medical Experiments
An U.S official apologized last week for infecting Guatemalan prisoners with syphilis and gonorrhea in some of his previous experiments. The experiments which took place in the 1940s were discovered by a medical historian, who now fears that the entire world has changed its conception about the doctors from the United States of America.
There have been numerous experiments performed over the course of history, and because of this new discovery, they will all be surrounded by a cloud of doubt and mystery. She is afraid that the public might believe that the Public Health Service has intentionally infected with syphilis the African-American men during the Tuskegee study in Alabama. However she said that the Public Health Service did not infect the people, but they not treat them. Many of the researchers who worked on the Guatemalan Experiments worked on the ones performed in Tuskegee as well, and this is one of the reasons why the people might believe that shady experiments have occurred numerous times over the course of history.
Susan Reverby, the medical historian at Wellesley College in Massachusetts, who discovered the reality about the Guatemala experiments, stated that the people should not worry about the possibility that the African-American were infected on purpose with syphilis. She said that it is very difficult to infect people with syphilis, and that she has the facts to prove it. Despite these facts, both of the experiments proved the fact that the doctors were willing to cross various moral boundaries when they performed the experiments. They swore an oath, and they deliberately decided to ignore it. She said that there might have been some scientists who might have not realized that what they do is immoral, but most of them knew the effects of the things which they did.
Reverby said that in order to infect a person with syphilis, one must scrap a region from one’s penis or forearm with a hypodermic needle, and then to put liquids which are infected with syphilis onto the area, or to directly inject the syphilis into the vein. Reverby said that it is most likely that the survivors would have remembered such things if they would have happened, but none of them has such recollections. According to Reverby, the liquid which contains the syphilis, takes a lot of time to prepare. First of all, they would have needed host rabbits that would have had very low testes level. The records from Tuskegee show that no money was spent on such things.
The two experiments were very different from each other. In the case of the Guatemalan experiment, the doctors gave the patients penicillin if they got infected with syphilis, because their main task was to find different methods of treating and preventing syphilis. They injected the patients with syphilis because they were confident that the prevention treatment would work, and on many occasions it did not work. The situation was different in the case of the Tuskegee experiments, as the doctors did not treat the African-Americans with penicillin, and they decided not to make the information about the treatment public. They said that their main task was to see how does the syphilis advance in the body, and how does it affect the body as it becomes in an advanced stage.
Leonard Glantz, a bioethicist at Boston University said that the Tuskegee experiment was very unfortunate, as it was a time when the science was put above morality, and because of that, the doctors considered that they have the right to do what they want. John C. Cutler, a Public Health Service physician, was the one who was in charge of the Guatemalan experiments. They knew that their actions were immoral yet they decided to continue doing them anyway. They were willing to cross all boundaries in order to infect the people with the disease, and they were afraid that the information will be leaked. Reverby said that the period when the experiment from Guatemala took place was before the period of the informed consent. There were no review boards which decided to allow or to ban a certain experiment for various reasons. The doctors had much more freedom with their experiments than they have now.
There were times when certain laws existed, but the doctors decided to continue with the experiments anyway. One of the most shocking actions was the one taken by Virologist Chester Southam, who injected cancer cells in both terminally ill and healthy patients. What is even more surprising is the fact that he was soon elected the president of the American Association for Cancer Research. Thomas Rivers, a famed virologist who headed the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research Hospital in New York, stated in his memoir from 1967, that such experiments are necessary, even if they are illegal and immoral, because otherwise progress would not be made in the medical world.
These two were not the only such experiments which were performed on humans. Hundreds or thousands of similar experiments have been performed over the course of time. Many believe that these types of experiments still go on, only that they are kept secret. Since there are stricter laws about them, they are hidden from the public, and in most of the occasions from the board committees. Robert Aronowitz, a physician and medical historian at the University of Pennsylvania said that there are many experiments which take place in poor countries, and it is very likely that the doctors convince the people from those regions to be subjects for the experiments in return of food, or very small amounts of money.
The people do it, because they desperately need the money, without knowing what they are being injected. Everything they do is OK from the legal point of view, because the experiments are done with papers, and the poor people are more than willing to sign the agreement contract than the people who have more money. Aronowitz stated that the issue is not illegal, but it is very immoral. In most of the cases, the doctors inject the trials into the volunteers, and soon afterwards they leave. Things might seem to go well for a while, but then the people might become sick, and there is no one there to help them. They start dying for a little bit of food, and for some money.
He said that he does not like to compare the two experiments, and he does not want to say which of them is more atrocious: the one from Guatemala where the doctors infected the people with syphilis but then they offered them treatment, or the one from Tuskegee where the doctors just stood and watched the people infected with syphilis how they die. He said that the most important thing is that they should not exist.11