July 13, 2020

The Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male was based in Macon, Alabama, USA and recruited 600 men, telling them they would receive free medical care. Most of them were sharecroppers and had never seen a Doctor. 

The study took place over a 40-year period from 1932 to 1972. Initial ‘free’ examinations had established that 399 of the participants had no knowledge that they had contracted Syphilis. The remaining 201 were the control group. Those enrolled were told by the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) that they had “bad blood” and ‘treated’ with placebos like vitamin supplements and Aspirin, even though Penicillin had been identified as a successful treatment in the 1940s. 

Bill Jenkins in Atlanta in 1997. He tried to halt the government’s Tuskegee syphilis experiment and later worked as an epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Alan Mothner/AP)

Medical staff turned a blind eye and gave no effective treatment as they watched the men die, go blind or insane or experience other severe health problems due to their untreated Syphilis.

By the time the Study was exposed in 1972, 40 wives of the men involved had contracted Syphilis, 19 children had been born with it and 24 men had died from it.

A $10 million out of court settlement was shared between the survivors and the family of those who had died in 1973.

On May 16, 1997, President Clinton issued an apology for the Tuskegee Syphilis Study. Five of the study’s eight surviving participants were present when Clinton made his apology on behalf of the American people during a ceremony at the White HouseThe final study participant passed away in 2004. The only reason the Study was stopped was that it was exposed by the media. 

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