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Ethics in Research The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment Essay

The field of medicine has experienced rapid growth with in the few 150 to 200 years, and over the years we have learn that many of these scientific developments were made at the expense of unorthodox procedures and research carried out with little to no concern on the unethical aspects of the research, as medical science advance the researchers place little or no effort towards informing subjects about the nature of experiments. Tuskegee syphilis experiments in Alabama was on especially an infamous experiment, from ‘‘1932 to 1972’‘ the U.S.

Public Health Services (PHS) conducted an experiment on 400 African American males in the late stages of syphilis these men, for the most part illiterate sharecroppers from one of the poorest counties in Alabama, were told what disease they were suffering from or of its seriousness, informed that they were being treated for “Bad Blood” their Doctors had no intention of curing them for syphilis at all.

The data for the experiment was to be collected for autopsies of the men, and they were thus deliberately left to degenerate under the ravages of tertiary syphilis which can include tumors, heart disease, paralysis, blindness, insanity and death, this is the most unethical, immoral and genocidal act carried out and funded my U.S. Public Health Services.

Coercion or leverage was the main tactic the PHS researchers use to recruit their test subjects, whom was poor uneducated sharecroppers that luck the resources needed to seek out side help, by misinforming the participants about the truth of their illness (syphilis), but non the less this was a means for the PHS to carry out their hidden agenda, to make them aware that they do have an illness and The U.S. Public Health Services was there to help treat them of their so call bad blood pandemic, this act of coercion provided the PHS the leverage they need to recruit necessary research subjects.

Because of this the consent acquired by the researchers from the research subjects was invalid because the information provided by the researchers was subjects was invalid, this violation of inform consent stemmed further, the researchers did not explain the expectancy and severity of the research, the researchers deliberately did not inform the subjects that they have the right to decline to participate and to withdraw from the research once it has begun.

The spider web of lies and deception planed and carried out by The U.S. Public Health Services researchers had no plans of curing the syphilis pandemic, the deception in this research is the main underlying reason why this research study is unethical in nature, rather than the actual deception itself, the deliberate use of deception in this research resulted in the deaths of a 100 African Americans research subjects, these deaths was actually apart of the research it self.

‘’The study actively kept the men away from treatment, even after penicillin became widely used for the treatment of syphilis in 1950s. In February of 1969, the PHS decided to continue the study and to continue to deny the men antibiotic treatment even though penicillin had become established as the standard treatment for syphilis, because it assumed that the disease was far too advanced for it to be treated.

Associated Press reporter Jean Heller broke the story on July 25, 1972 on the front-page of the New York Times and the study stopped at once’’ After the research had ended the only seventy-four participants of 400 infected subjects had still been a live after the study got exposited, In August 1972, an ad hoc committee found the study to have been “ethically unjustified” and argued that penicillin should have been given to the men upon its discovery. 40 years after the experiment had ended the test subjects was not Adequate debriefed on the true nature of the study and the long-term effects of the of the syphilis on their bodies, wife and kids.

After the press release of the Tuskegee syphilis experiment the test subjects was provided with little to no confidentiality from the press or PHS after the findings of the research was publish. The experiment diversity was limited to African Americans males, who were the carry of the syphilis.


William J. Clinton, “Remarks,” in Tuskegee’s Truths: Rethinking the Tuskegee
Syphilis Study, ed. Susan M. Reverby (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2000), 574-577.

Thomas G. Benedek and Jonathan Erlen, “The Scientific Environment of the Tuskegee Study of Syphilis, 1920-1960, Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 43 no. 1 (1999), 1-30.

Ad Hoc Tuskegee Syphilis Panel, “Selections from the Final Report,” in Tuskegee’s Truths: Rethinking the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, ed. Susan M. Reverby (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2000), 166.

Jean Heller, “Syphilis Victims in the U.S. Went Untreated for 40 years,” in Tuskegee’s Truths: Rethinking the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, ed. Susan M. Reverby (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2000), 116-117.

anessa N. Gamble and Deborah Stone. “U.S. Policy on Health Inequities: the Interplay of Politics and Research,” Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law 31, (2006): 93-126.

Ruth R. Faden, Susan E. Lederer , J. E. Lederer, and Juan D. Moreno, “U.S. Medical Researchers, the Nuremberg Doctors Trial, and the Nuremberg Code,” Journal of the American Medical Association, 276 no. 20(1996): 1668.

Martin S. Pernick, “The patient’s role in medical decision making: a social history of informed consent in medical therapy,” in Making Health Care Decisions: A Report on the Ethical and Legal Implications of Informed Consent in the Patient-Practitioner Relationship, President’s Commission for Study of Ethical Problems in Medicine and Biomedical and Behavioral Research, 3 1-25.

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