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One does not need conjecture to answer the question “do you think African Americans were tricked into this experiment?” They were tricked into the experiment. The so-called Tuskegee syphilis experiment, officially titled The Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male, was a deliberate effort at deceiving 600 African American men into believing they were being treated for this deadly but treatable disease when the attending physicians and public officials overseeing the project knew all-along that they were not treating the syphilis with which 399 of these men were infected. Rather, as the 1993 NOVA documentary demonstrates, these men were being deliberately left untreated so that scientists could study the progression of the disease. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) states on its website, a link to which is provided below, the following with regard to the issue of “informed consent” and the conclusion of the Ad Hoc Advisory Panel established in 1972 to study and report on the Tuskegee syphilis study following its disclosure by the Associated Press:
“The panel found that the men had agreed freely to be examined and treated. However, there was no evidence that researchers had informed them of the study or its real purpose. In fact, the men had been misled and had not been given all the facts required to provide informed consent.”
That the victims of this horrific government-sponsored experiment were unknowing subjects was clearly implied in the quotation from the notes of the U.S. Public Health Service official responsible for the experiment, Talford Clark, head of the service’s Venereal Disease Division. The documentary quotes Clark as having written at the time:
“Macon County [the location in Alabama where the study occurred] is a natural laboratory, a ready-made situation. The rather low intelligence of the negro population, depressed economic conditions, and the very common promiscuous sex relations not only contribute to the spread of the syphilis but also to the prevailing indifference with regard to treatment.”
The initial concept for the Public Health Service program had involved treating the infected population of Macon County. Budgetary considerations, however, resulted in the treatment part of the program being eliminated, with sole focus being on studying the disease’s spread within the bodies of those infected. There is no question that the subjects of the study were lead to believe that treatment was still a part of the program. That they were left to suffer the terrible symptoms of syphilis, which includes blindness, dementia and, eventually, in many cases, death all the way up to the program’s conclusion in 1972 remains one of the darkest stains on this country’s history.
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