Tuskegee Syphilis Study Ethical Issues

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Imagine having syphilis and no way of paying for treatment but your government offers free treatment and you can obtain treatment to be cured of this disease. Now, imagine that you were deceived and instead of being treated for the terrible disease you were used as part of an experiment, and the purpose was not to get treated, how would you feel? Would you find it unethical, and that it was a racial act of color or low-income population? Of course, it is unethical and horrific. The case of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study was studying untreated Syphilis in the African American men by U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) in Macon County, Alabama, that lasted for roughly 40 years. They used 600 black men, 3999 with syphilis and 201 without (the control group). The participants were recruited with the false promise of a “special and free treatment”, which was “a spinal tap to determine the incidence of neuro-syphilis”. This is an unethical modern medical research study in the United States, due to the Tuskegee Syphilis Study ethical issues present in it (informed consent, racism, paternalism and the unfair selection of subjects). I find it to be the worst ethical and cruel to do to humans.

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The racism involved in this study is very evident in the way it was done, justification and repercussions. The misguided reputation of social Darwinism of the twentieth century is maybe the most liberal explanation for the points of Dr. J.E.Moore “one of the nation’s leading venereologists”, and Taliaferro Clark, the chief of USPHS venereal disease division. Before, Moore argued for treating syphilis to reduce its effects on the patients and reduce the potential spread. Maybe to pacify the concerns about the racist nature of the study, Moore pointed out that syphilis in the black males would be greatly different than in the white male. He also argued that due to low intelligence in back men meant that they would not want to be treated. This study condemned these black men and their partners to the exposure of this disease and the terrible side effects. The scientific value of the syphilis study was limited by objective, performance, and origin. During the period when the study was arranged, there were some possible effective treatments for syphilis, which bring up questions about the value of the study.

The Tuskegee syphilis study and the others done during WWII, and the study of hepatitis in the mentally disabled children is a great example of how medical research was wrong. The Tuskegee study is a great reminder of how medical research can use ethically unacceptable methods to achieve their goals, but it can also fail to achieve anything more than an example of the worst of our social beliefs. As the author mentions at the end of the story “The need for greater vigilance in assessing the specific ways in which social values and attitudes affect professional behavior is clearly indicated.” 

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