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Ethically Impossible: STD Research in Guatemala from 1946 to 1948

Report released by the US Bioethics Committee on the Public Health Service’s supported research on STDs in Guatemala in the 1940’s -

Following the revelation last fall that the PHS supported research on sexually transmitted diseases in Guatemala from 1946 to 1948, President Obama asked the Bioethics Commission to oversee a thorough fact-finding investigation into the studies. Commission staff carefully reviewed more than 125,000 original pages of documents and approximately 550 secondary sources collected from public and private archives around the country. Commission staff also completed a fact finding trip to Guatemala and met with Guatemala’s own internal investigation committee.

The PHS research involved intentionally exposing and infecting vulnerable populations to sexually transmitted diseases without the subjects’ consent. “In the Commission’s view, the Guatemala experiments involved unconscionable basic violations of ethics, even as judged against the researchers’ own recognition of the requirements of the medical ethics of the day,” Commission Chair Amy Gutmann, Ph.D., said. “The individuals who approved, conducted, facilitated and funded these experiments are morally culpable to various degrees for these wrongs.”

The full reportEthically Impossible: STD Research in Guatemala from 1946-1953, also includes the Commission’s ethical analysis of the case.

Read the entire press release here. How do you think this will impact future research on human subjects? Drop your comment below.

2 Responses

  1. Its disgusting, its realy wrong. Having guatemalan roots myself , this angers me. how could they do something so vile. and the united states?????!?!

  2. What burns me is that only now do we get around to looking at this atrocity, after most of the victims are already dead. Why didn’t anybody examine the basic morality of this project before? What in the world were those folks thinking? Are any of the researchers available to be interrogated about what they were doing then?
    And, worst of all, are “we” still engaging in such secret research in Third World countries today? It is fine to just now discover things that our grandparents did fifty or sixty years ago.
    But what about now? It is not as though some moral lessons have been learned that will keep the current generation of Americans from killing innocent people, openly or secretly, in the name of Nation, Money, and worst of all, Science.
    Let laws against human rights violations be strengthened and enforced. Let such atrocities be stopped, now sixty years from now, not during the next generation, but right now, as they are happening.

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