Tuskegee Syphilis Study Genocide in Black-And-White Term Paper

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Tuskegee Syphilis Study

GENOCIDE in BLACK-and-WHITE

The Tuskegee Study

In 1928, the U.S. Public Health Service or PHS collaborated with the Rosenwald Fund charity organization of Chicago to help improve the health of African-Americans in the South (WorldNow 2007). The PHS had then just completed a study on the prevalence of syphilis among the Black male employees of the Delta Pine and Land Company of Mississippi. The study found 25% of more than 2,000 sample employees positive for syphilis. They treated these samples and, in time, the program expanded to cover five more counties in the South. These were Albemarle County, Virginia, Glynn County, Georgia, Macon County, Alabama, Pitt County, North Carolina, and Tipton County, Tennessee. During the set-up stage, the Great Depression happened and hit the Rosenwald Fund so badly that it had to withdraw from the collaboration. The PHS lost the resources needed to pursue the initiative. At the same time, health circles speculated on possible racial differences in the effects of syphilis. Dr. Tabaferro Clark of the PHS suggested to these circles to conduct a study on the effects of untreated syphilis on living subjects to partly save the project. The circles approved his suggestion (WorldNow).Buy full Download Microsoft Word File paper
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The PHS sought the help of the Tuskegee Institute for its links with the local African-American community (WorldNow 2007). The Institute was compensated with money, training for its interns and jobs for its nurses. The PHS recruited Black church and community leaders and plantation owners to encourage project participation among the Black population. The African-Americans concerned at that time had almost no access to medical care of any kind. The examination conducted by PHS doctors was the first many of these Black subjects had in their lives. The free health examination was free-of-charge. Besides the free medical examination, the participants were also given food and transportation. It was relatively easy to recruit the Black participants for the study. Burial money was also provided to obtain permission from family members for eventual autopsies for the participants in case of death. Despite the medical examination, none of the 25% participants found positive for syphilis was informed if he was infected. They were insufficiently treated or not treated at all. PHS officials also prevented other agencies from offering or supplying treatment to these participants. During World War II, about 50 of them were told by their draft board to submit to treatment for syphilis. The PHS requested these draft boards to exclude the study subjects and the draft boards agreed. In 1943, the PHS started treating patients with syphilis but excluded the study subjects. In 1952, the PHS tracked down those participants who had left Macon County through the local health departments. Coordination work between these two bodies continued until the end of the study in the 70s to deny treatment to the said participants. The study came to an early halt in 1972 when Peter Buxton revealed their experience to a reporter of the Associated Press. Buxton was an interviewer and investigator for the PHS who tried to protest the issue with the PHS since 1966. Despite his dispute, the study persisted. It was still ongoing when the scandal broke out on the front pages of the newspapers throughout the country (WorldNow). The study intended to discover the effects of syphilis on the body and to track down these effects (Washington 1997). That was why these subjects were deprived treatment. They were all poor Black men who referred to syphilis as "bad blood" but did not know they were infected with it. The Associated Press reported that 28 of these subjects had died of the disease and 100 more from syphilis-related complications. At least 40 of their wives and 19 children were also infected. More than three decades have passed since the sudden termination of the study. It has deepened race relations and tensions in the U.S. And created Black cynicism and suspicion of white authority and medical professionals (Washington).

Senator Edward Kennedy ordered congressional subcommittee meetings in early 1973 (WorldNow 2007). This led to the complete rewriting of health, education and welfare regulations on human subjects of study. In that same year, a $1.8 billion class suit was filed in U.S. District Court in behalf of the affected study subjects. In December of the following year, the federal government paid the victims $10 million out of court (WorldNow). A 1976 interview was conducted with director John Heller of the Venereal Diseases unit of the PHS by historian James Jones. In the interview, Heller said that the subjects' status did not entail ethical debate, as they were subjects and not patients. He claimed that they were considered clinical material, not sick persons. As a consequence, the National Commission on AIDS said that many African-American people today no longer trust hospitals and community health care service providers on account of the Tuskegee experiment. The Commission conducted a survey of 1,056 African-American church members in five cities. It found that 34% of them believed that AIDS was only an artificial virus, 35% of them view the disease as a form of genocide and 44% of them believed that the government was the truth from them about AIDS (WorldNow). The continuing lack of knowledge and awareness about AIDS among the Black population was due to the mistrust generated by the Tuskegee study (Christian Century 2000). Parish church leaders said that there remained a deep-seated mistrust of white doctors in the Black community, especially in doctors who did not look like them (Christian Century).

In a 1997 ceremony, U.S. President Bill Clinton issued a formal apology in person to all the victims of this most inhuman and horrendous 40-year experiment on live Black subjects (Washington 1997). Five of eight survivors, then aged 90 to 100, went all the way from Tuskegee in Alabama to Washington to attend the ceremony and receive the apology. It was the fulfillment of President Clinton's promise to issue the formal apology in addition to the financial compensation out of court. He took advantage of the occasion to announce that the government was contributing $14 million to help fund a bioethics research center at the Tuskegee University (Washington, Hammer 2003). This Center was the first to tackle issues involving African-Americans and other underserved populations or minorities. It was organized in 1999 from funds from the Center for Disease Control Prevention, partly in response to the legacy of the Tuskegee study in Macon County. Secretary Tommy Thompson of the Health and Human Services said that the Center symbolized those who suffered injustice for the sake of science and medical advancement (Hammer).

A study was conducted on the sufficiency of minorities in medical research and published in the November 2006 issue of the Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved (Claudio 2007). It wanted to know if the shortage in the number of respondents from minorities was because of their lack of willingness and suspicions about participating in such studies. The study discovered that medical researches studies often exclude ethnic and racial minorities as valid study participants who represented their populations. Results revealed that only 30% of those surveyed expressed willingness to participate in such studies. It concluded that Blacks were 1.8 times more likely to fear participation in biomedical research. Nonetheless, Blacks still expressed some willingness despite documented or potential dangers to them. The findings aligned with those of few others, which evaluated racial or ethnic differences in research participation. These studies also addressed health disparities. African-Americans had varied experiences in health care systems, according to the studies. Hence, there could not be a fixed pattern of their health-seeking behaviors, according to Ruth Browne of the Arthus Ashe Institute for Urban Health in Brooklyn, New York. This conclusion warranted culturally appropriate and adaptive outreach efforts, she said (Claudio).

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