Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Today’s Video: Mad science

Last year it was revealed that U.S. government researchers exploited thousands of Guatemalans for a series of experiments on sexually transmitted diseases in the 1940s. President Barack Obama subsequently apologized to his Guatemalan counterpart, Alvaro Colom, and ordered a bioethics panel to investigate the experiments and they revealed some of their preliminary findings yesterday. What they discovered was absolutely jaw-dropping:

  • Approximately 1300 people including prison inmates and mentally disabled individuals were used as guinea pigs in the experiments that members of the panel described as a "shameful piece of medical history" and terribly unethical even for its time.
  • In some of the worst cases seven women with epilepsy were injected with syphilis in the back of their heads while a dying female syphilis patient woman was infected with numerous diseases including gonorrhea.
  • The actions in Guatemala led by head researcher Dr. John Cutler from 1946 to 1948 were amazingly similar to a 1943 experiment where Indiana prison inmates were deliberately infected with gonorrhea.
Guatemala's Vice President Rafael Espada told BBC News that his country's government will extend a public apology since local doctors were involved in the gruesome procedures.

The video below via PBS News Hour from last October includes an interview with Wellesley College professor Susan Reverby who ironically uncovered documents on the Guatemalan experiments while researching the infamous Tuskegee syphilis study:

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