1932-1972600 low-income African-American males,
400 infected with syphilis are monitored for 40 years. Even though a proven
cure (penicillin) became available in the 1950s, the study continues until
1972 with participants denied treatment. Perhaps as many as 100 died of
syphilis during the study (Allen, 1978).
Throughout the forty years of the study it was periodically reivewed by U.S. Health Service officials. In each case the study was extended based on the argument that stopping the study, while helping these individuals, would interfere with the benefits to medical science of studying this untreated disease (Jones, 1989). For a justification of the study by one of the researchers, see the following movie. The study was stopped by the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare only after its existence was leaked to the public and it became a political embarrassment.
This study violated a number of ethical principles that are now applied to human subjects research.The Tuskegee syphilis study is one of the most widely cited examples of research in which human subjects were not adequately protected. This study, and other similar studies provided the impetus for federal regulations that now restrict the treatment of human subjects in research.
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