Ever wonder why your mom or dad or aunt or uncle doesn’t seem to trust the doctor? Any immigrant, primarily black individuals, know this feeling. We would rather wait two-three weeks and hope whatever we have does not get worse than go visit a doctor and even when we do? We still have our doubts. Officially known as The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment, the United States Public Health Service conducted an inhumane clinical study on Tuskegee men between 1932-1972. You are probably thinking so what? They consented, right? Wrong. These African American men believed that they were receiving free health care. The purpose of this study was to see/study the natural progression of untreated syphilis in rural African American men. According to Medilexicon’s medical dictionary:
“Syphilis is an acute and chronic infectious disease caused by the bacterium Treponema pallidum and transmitted by direct contact, usually through sexual intercourse. After an incubation period of 12-30 days, the first symptom is a chancre, followed by slight fever and other constitutional symptoms (primary syphilis), followed by a skin eruption of various appearances with mucous patches and generalized lymphadenopathy (secondary syphilis), and subsequently by the formation of gummas, cellular infiltration, and functional abnormalities usually resulting from cardiovascular and central nervous system lesions (tertiary syphilis).”
There were 600 sharecroppers from Mason County, Alabama. It should be noted that 399 of those men had previously contracted syphilis prior to the beginning of the study, although, 201 did not have the disease. The men were given free medical care, meals, and free burial insurance, for participating in the study. They were never told they had syphilis and they were never treated for it. This study lasted 40 years and during the time of the study penicillin, an effective cure for the disease they were studying, was developed and it was not used to treat these men. It took a 1972 leak to the press to shut down this horrific study on November 16. The victims of the study included numerous men who died of syphilis, wives who contracted the disease, and children born with congenital syphilis.
The Tuskegee Syphilis Study led to the 1979 Belmont Report and the establishment of the Office For Human Research Protections (OHRP). It also led to federal laws and regulations requiring Institutional Review Boards for the protection of human subjects in studies involving human subjects. The Office for Human Research Protections (OHRP) manages this responsibility within the US Department Of Health And Human Services (HHS).
We remember the black lives lost and men and women and children hurt by this horrid and inhumane process. #BlackHistoryMonth