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The Tuskegee Syphilis Study, Coursework Example

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Words: 288

Coursework

The Tuskegee Syphilis Study serves as a horrific blot on American medical ethics and public health research.  The Tuskegee research experiments were conducted from 1932 to 1972 in Tuskegee, Alabama under the auspices of the US Public Health Service (Gamble, 1997).  The experiment’s main goal was to assess how individuals infected with Syphilis would respond over the long-term.  In order to assess this question, the US Public Health Service recruited nearly 600, largely poor, African American male sharecroppers from a rural county in Alabama.  While some of the study’s participants already were infected with syphilis (nearly 400), the other 200 men who participated in the study did not have the disease.

The main ethical problem in the study involved withholding treatment from individuals who tested positive for syphilis, many of them who didn’t even know they were infected with the disease. Indeed, although substantial progress was made in treating syphilis (and other infections) through the use of penicillin, none of the study’s participants were given the drug , violating rules for the notification and treatment of patients.  The study came to an abrupt end in 1972 after several officials involved with the study notified the press of the unethical practices underpinning the study.  Although many of the study’s participants ultimately perished while the study was being conducted, a lone bright spot was the changes that resulted as a result of the study.   The Belmont Report was released in 1979 that led to the establishment of numerous agencies, and the Institutional Review Board (IRB) an innovation that would police clinical studies (Northridge, 2010).

References

Northridge, M.  (2010). Claiming Tuskegee.  Health Affairs, 29(6), 1271-1272.

Gamble, V.N. (1997).  Under the shadow of Tuskegee: African Americans and health care.  American Journal of Public Health, 87(11), 1773-1778.

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