In her book Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present, medical ethicist and journalist Harriet A. Washington describes the history of medical experimentation performed on the African American population, as well as the "scientific racism" and the unfair treatment of Black people in America, especially by doctors, physicians, and medical professionals and researchers.
Washington explains that throughout history, Black people have been subjected to various medical experiments and studies. Despite the fact that some of the medical experiments performed on African Americans were sometimes beneficial to the subjects, the majority of them were actually uncomfortable, sometimes painful, and “non-therapeutic,” meaning they had little to no benefit to the subjects, and their main purpose was the examination and scientific analysis of diseases and/or disorders, rather then the development of cures or treatments.
In the epilogue of the book, Washington discusses the medical experimentation and research projects done today. She mentions that society has come a long way and that, unlike before, the majority of medical experiments and studies done these days are deemed unharmful. She even argues that African Americans shouldn't be afraid to participate in such studies and experiments, so that the general public opinion on the health of the black population in America can be more positive. However, she also notes that there are still some medical researchers who conduct unethical studies even today.
She explains that most of these unethical and "non-therapeutic" experiments are done in Africa, which was actually a common practice in the late-twentieth century, especially during Apartheid; in part III, chapter 15 of the book, Washington even describes an act of bioterrorism that occurred in South Africa in the 1980s, known as Project Coast, in which South African cardiologist Dr. Wouter Basson (nicknamed "Dr. Death") and American gynecologist Dr. Larry Ford developed biological weapons to poison Black rioters. Dr. Basson refuses to disclose whether or not he was helped by the American government.
Furthermore, she mentions that doctors and medical personnel in America aren't required to ask for permission or consent to administer experimental drugs or treatments and perform procedures on patients admitted in the ER; this is quite concerning, as nearly half of American medical and health care comes from emergency rooms, and the most common patients are often from minority groups (in chapter 14, she explains that the most common visitors of the ER are African Americans). In this context, Washington suggests that the people should be informed of any potential risks that come with these procedures, and that they should be educated about the basics of medical ethics.
She also writes about the occasional mistreatment of the American soldiers, which are sometimes subjected to various medical studies and research projects created and conducted by pharmaceutical companies or medical institutions and centers, as the soldiers don't always have the choice to deny participation in such experiments; for instance, soldiers can sometimes be given vaccines and drugs to test and study the effects of these compounds on the human body.
Washington concludes that all medical professionals and researchers should make sure that the patients or the subjects are well-informed about the study or the experiment (especially about the risks and potential side-effects), and they should always ask for consent or permission, no matter where they're doing their research or conducting their experiments.