The research was conducted in Macon County, Alabama, the county seat of Tuskegee, known as the “Black Belt” because of its rich soil and a large number of black sharecroppers who were the region’s economic backbone. Tuskegee Institute’s campus was the site of the research.
What It Was Meant to Discover
The study aimed to document the natural history of syphilis in Black people. The research was known as the “Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in Negro Males.” There were no proven treatments for the disease when the study began. Researchers informed the men in the survey that they would be treated for “bad blood.” Locals used this term to describe a variety of diagnosable ailments, including but not limited to anemia, fatigue, and syphilis.
Who Were the Attendees?
A total of 600 men participated in the study. The experimental group included 399 people with syphilis, while the control group included 201 people. The majority of the men were county sharecroppers who were poor and illiterate.
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What the Men Got in Return for Their Participation
In terms of medical care and survivors’ insurance, the men were given what most black men could only dream of. They were enticed and enrolled in the study with promises of medical exams, rides to and from clinics, meals on exam days, free treatment for minor ailments, and burial stipends paid to their survivors after their deaths.
When the study began, there were no proven treatments for syphilis. When penicillin became the standard treatment for the disease in 1947, the medicine was withheld from both the experimental and control groups.
How and Why Did the Study End?
On July 25, 1972, Jean Heller of the Associated Press broke the story, which ran simultaneously in New York and Washington, that a 40-year nontherapeutic experiment known as “a study” on the effects of untreated syphilis on Black men in the rural south had been conducted.
Between the start of the study in 1932 and when penicillin was discovered to cure the disease in 1947, dozens of men died, and their wives, children, and an unknown number of others were infected. This triggered an international public outcry and a series of actions initiated by federal agencies in the United States. The Assistant Secretary for Health and Scientific Affairs convened an Ad Hoc Advisory Panel of nine experts in health administration, medicine, law, religion, and education to review the study.
While the panel concluded that the men freely consented to the examinations and treatments, there was evidence that scientific research protocol routinely applied to human subjects was either ignored or deeply flawed to ensure the men’s safety and well-being. In particular, the men were never informed about or offered the research procedure known as informed consent. The men had not been told of the study’s actual name, “Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male,” its purpose, or the potential consequences of the treatment or lack thereof they would receive during the study. The men were unaware of the potentially debilitating and life-threatening effects of the treatments they were about to receive, as well as the impact on their wives, girlfriends, and any children they may have conceived while participating in the research. The panel also concluded that when penicillin became available as a treatment and cure for syphilis, participants had no option but to leave the study.
After reviewing the research findings, the panel concluded that the study was “ethically unjustified.” In October 1972, the panel articulated all of the above results, and one month later, the Assistant Secretary for Health and Scientific Affairs officially declared the end of the Tuskegee Study.
Suit for Class Action
Attorney Fred Gray filed a class-action suit on behalf of the men in the study, their wives, children, and families in the summer of 1973. It concluded with a settlement in which the study participants received more than $9 million.
The Function of the United States Public Health Service
At the turn of the twentieth century, the United States Public Health Service (PHS) was tasked with monitoring, identifying, and developing interventions to treat diseases, ailments, and negative trends affecting the health and wellness of Americans. It was divided into sections and divisions, one of which was devoted to venereal diseases. All areas of the PHS conducted human-based scientific research. The research standards were adequate for their time, but they were dramatically different from today’s standards, which are influenced by the professional and personal biases of those leading the PHS. Scientists believed that few people outside the scientific community understood the complexities of research, ranging from the nature of scientific experiments to the consent required to become a research subject. These sentiments were especially prevalent among the poor and uneducated Black community.
In 1932, the PHS collaborated with Tuskegee Institute to study hundreds of black men with syphilis from Macon County, Alabama.
The United States government promised to provide various free services to the study’s survivors, their wives, widows, and children as part of the class-action suit settlement. All living participants were granted immediate access to free medical and burial services. The Tuskegee Health Benefit Program, which was and still is administered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for HIV, STD, and TB Prevention, provided these services.
Tuskegee Legacy Committee 1996
A symposium titled “Doing Bad in the Name of Good?: The Tuskegee Syphilis Study and Its Legacy” was held in February 1994 at the Claude Moore Health Sciences Library in Charlottesville, VA. This meeting resulted in the formation of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study Legacy Committee, which met for the first time on January 18th and 19th, 1996. The Committee had two goals: (1) to persuade President Clinton to apologize on behalf of the government for the study’s atrocities, and (2) to develop a strategy to address the study’s psychological damage to African-Americans and others regarding the ethical behaviour of government-led research; rebuilding Tuskegee’s reputation through public education about the study, developing a clearinghouse on the ethics of scientific research and scholarship, and convening an assembly on the ethics of scientific research and scholarship. The Committee’s final report, issued in May 1996, urged President Clinton to apologize for the study’s emotional, medical, research, and psychological harm. The apology was delivered to the surviving study participants and families of the deceased on May 16 at a White House ceremony attended by the men, members of the Legacy Committee, and others representing the medical and research communities.
Using an outside quality peer reviewed resource, research the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment. Describe the ethical violations demonstrated in the study and the impact the study had on minority communities.
APA format, 2-3 pages