Saturday, October 2, 2010

U.S. scientific researchers infected hundreds of Guatemalan mental patients with sexually transmitted diseases from 1946 to 1948

On Friday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius issued a formal apology to Guatemala, and to Guatemalan residents of the United States, for carrying out secret experiments in the 1940s - a practice that only came to light recently (yeah, right!).

"Although these events occurred more than 64 years ago, we are outraged that such reprehensible research could have occurred under the guise of public health," said Clinton and Sebelius in a joint statement. "We deeply regret that it happened, and we apologize to all the individuals who were affected by such abhorrent research practices."

The discovery stems from another episode in the U.S - the "Tuskegee experiment" -  which  involved 399 poor black men from Macon County, Alabama, who were 'diagnosed' with syphilis but were told by Federal scientists that they only had "bad blood".

The study, which began in 1932 and continued until 1972 when it was exposed by the media, monitored untreated syphilis (usually fatal) in the male Negro, even after penicillin proved to be an effective syphilis treatment.

Susan Reverby, a professor of women's and gender studies at Wellesley College and an expert on the Tuskegee scandal, learned of the Guatemalan project while she was doing research for a book.

She discovered that researchers from the U.S. Public Health Service, with permission from the Guatemalan government, conducted experiments on 696 male and female patients who were housed at Guatemala's National Mental Health Hospital.

The patients were injected with gonorrhea and syphilis and were encouraged to pass the disease on to others.

Reverby was instrumental in getting Bill Clinton to offer an apology for the Tuskegee experiment in 1997.

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