(ORDO NEWS) — In 1932, the US Public Health Service and the Tuskegee Institute began the Tuskegee Experiment on Untreated Syphilis in Black Men to study the natural history of syphilis and to analyze differences between black and white men.
The study involved 600 black men from Macon County, Alabama, of whom 399 contracted syphilis and 201 did not.
The study was supposed to last only 6 months, but it went on for 40 years, during which the men were simply told they had “bad blood”.
Participants received free health checks, meals and death insurance, but were never told they had syphilis or treated for it.
Many discovered their disease after registering for the draft during World War II, but they were still denied penicillin or withdrawal from the study.
In 1972, the Associated Press published an article that caused a public outcry and the appointment of a Special Advisory Commission that found the study ethically unsound.
The study was terminated and was followed by a class action lawsuit that was settled out of court and cost the government only $10 million and lifelong medical benefits for the victims of the experiment.
For many, it was too late: by the 1970s, out of the original 399 people, only 128 survived, and 49 wives and 19 children also contracted the disease.
The Tuskegee experiment remains one of the symbols of American racism and government mistreatment of its citizens.
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