Essay - Conflict Between Research and Ethics: the Tuskegee Syphilis Study Introduction...

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Conflict between Research and Ethics: The Tuskegee Syphilis Study


The Tuskegee syphilis study is probably the most famous series of medical experiments in U.S. history. Unfortunately, the reason that ***** study is so widely known is not because it led to ground-break*****g advances in the treatment of syphilis, but because ***** ***** was conducted on human participants who had ***** given informed c*****sent, and resulted in needless pain and suffering for ***** of those subjects. While it is commonly believed ***** the U.S. government infected the test ***** w*****h syphilis, that belief is untrue. On the contrary, the government enl*****ted ill men in the study, did not identify the nature ***** *****ir disease, ***** led them ***** believe ***** they were gett*****g treatment, when they actually were not.

While it is tempting to completely condemn the Tuskegee syphil***** study as an example of Americ***** racism, that would be a simplistic explanation of how the study occurred. In fact, the study began as an effort ***** justify treatment of syphilis in blacks. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Home, 2008). ***** 1926, ***** was identified as a major health concern, impacting 35 percent of ***** reproductive-aged population. (Centers for Disease Control and *****, Timeline, 2008). However, there was no antibiotic ***** developed for syphilis; on the *****, in 1929 ***** government institutes an aggressive treatment program using mercury and bismuth, but the cure rate is less than 30 percent, ***** treatments are time consuming, and the side effects ***** the treatment could be toxic, even fatal. (Centers for ***** Control and Prevention, Timeline, 2008). After the market crashes, the powers that be determine that the cost of syphilis treatment in ***** is prohibitive and orders the end of the treatment *****. *****, the researchers decide to follow the men's health ***** demonst***** ***** untreated ***** creates serious health problems, to s***** that the treatment ***** necessary. By 1935, the researchers ***** able to publish the first major paper about the ***** ***** untreated syphilis. In 1936, ***** researchers decide to follow the men ***** life ***** ask ***** doctors ***** the community to join with them in preventing the men from receiving *****. (Centers for Disease Control and *****, Timeline, 2008). In 1947, penicillin is found to cure syphilis, but the men are not offered penicillin ***** the study continues, despite ethical concerns, until 1972. In 1973, Congress held hearings about the study and ***** study participants fi***** a class-action lawsuit, which ***** settled in 1974 for $10 million. (***** for Disease Control and Prevention, Timeline, 2008).

Patient consent

Obviously, the major ethical problem with the experi*****t is that the patients were not ***** suf*****cient information to give *****ir informed consent to participate in the *****. ***** the age of *****, it may seem impossible ***** understand the depth of ***** ignorance the study participants ***** about their disease and about the appropriate treatments:

These men, for ***** most part ill*****erate sharecroppers from one of the poorest counties ***** Alabama,


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