The Unethical Issues Of The Tuskegee Study

2100 words - 8 pages

In 1929, there were good intentions to help the African Americans. The Julius Rosenwald Fund tried to improve the health illnesses of African Americans by approaching representatives of the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS). Unfortunately, the Great Depression did not allow for this study to happen because it hit the Fund hard. Since there were no more funds, Dr. Taliaferro Clark, Chief of the USPHS Venereal Disease Division and author of the Rosenwald Study report, suggested that the treatment study could be partly saved by conducting a new study. This study became known as “Study of Untreated Syphilis in Males.”
The U.S. Public Health Service conducted this new experiment study which consisted of 399 men with syphilis and 201 men without syphilis for forty years, from 1932 to 1972. There was a total of six hundred men who participated in this study. In 1932, the Public Health Service collaborated with the Tuskegee Institute, an African American university which was founded by Booker T. Washington. The men that were chosen for this study were illiterate and were sharecroppers from Alabama. The syphilis rate in Macon County was the highest with a 39.8%. The Tuskegee study became morally and ethically wrong when penicillin became available to treat syphilis and was denied to the participants of the study. The study broke many ethical rules. The participants were told that if they participated, they were going to receive free medical care for their “bad blood.” The men were never informed what they were actually being treated for. Unfortunately, these men accepted because they were getting free healthcare and that is what they desired since they were very poor.
In the beginning, this study was not going to last long; it was supposed to last between six to eight months. The purpose of this study was to observe the effects of syphilis on blacks because they were considered “inferior” to the whites. Many of the healthcare workers such as doctors strongly believed that there was a racial difference in the symptoms of diseases. The white doctors often thought that African Americans “contracted syphilis because of their ever-increasing low standards of sexual morality” (24). The participants had to be men about twenty five years of age with syphilis who had not been treated for the disease. It was quite simple to gather a group of people in Macon County because it was a poor community with bad hygiene. Many men who participated in this study have never seen a doctor in their life which willingly made them to be part of this study. The African Americans did not know about the healthcare terms and were taken advantage of by white doctors who contributed to this study. In fact, the doctors had no intention in helping the participants to be cured from syphilis.
Syphilis is a disease that is sexually transmitted that can cause serious difficulties such as death if it is not treated. If you treat it with penicillin, it is simple to cure. There are three...

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