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Henrietta Lacks Research Project Essay

2224 words - 9 pages

The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment
The Tuskegee Syphilis experiment (The official name was Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male) began in the 1930’s. It was an experiment on African Americans to study syphilis and how it affected the body and killed its victims done by Tuskegee Institute U.S. Public Health Service researchers. The initial purpose of the Syphilis study “was to record the natural history of syphilis in Blacks” (Tuskegee University, “About the USPHS Syphilis Study,” par. 2). The study was necessary because syphilis was a disease that didn’t yet have an official cure (when the study began in the 30’s). There were 600 men in all; 399 had syphilis and 201 served as a control group for the experiment. The subjects lacked money and education to understand what exactly was going on and couldn’t give informed consent ,but “the researchers offered incentives: free physical exams, hot meals, and rides into town on clinic days, plus fifty-dollar burial stipends for their families when the men died” (50). Therefore, they didn’t question the doctors about what they were doing. During the experiment on the hundreds of African Americans, the doctors found out that they could cure them with penicillin. However, the doctors choose not to cure them in order to study how syphilis killed people and many of the subjects had, indeed, died. Later, in the 1970’s, an article was released which sparked rumors about the southern doctors injecting the men with syphilis, rather them already having it. The government put an end to the study in the early 1970’s. The experiment affected medical history because it helped lead to the creation of the National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research which protects the rights of human subjects in research. I believe that the experiment was extremely racist considering that people believed that “black people were ‘a notoriously syphilis-soaked race.’” (50). I also don’t see a purpose in the continuation of the experiment since penicillin was discovered to be a cure during the time of the study. It was unethical because the subjects were unaware of the consequences and denied the treatment for their disease.

The Mississippi Appendectomy Study
The Mississippi Appendectomy study started taking place in the 1920’s. The experiment consisted of excessive hysterectomies on many women mainly in the Deep South. Poor Black women were the main focus of the experiments as well as disabled women and women that the physicians thought were not worthy of reproducing. Young, less experienced doctors were told to perform the sterilization process so that they had “a chance to practice the procedure” (50). The experiment was unnecessary and served no true, ethical purpose. The doctors believed it was in order to perform the hysterectomies because the women seemed unfit to have children and to give the younger surgeons practice. In detail,...

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