In 1932 the United States Public Health Service (USPHS) designed a study with human subjects with the aim of determining how untreated latent syphilis takes its natural course. For this study, 400 syphilis-infected African Americans from Tuskegee, Alabama were enrolled matching against a control group of 200 uninfected participants. The result of leaving the men untreated was that more than 100 men died directly from advanced stages of syphilis.
It wasn't until 40 years later in 1972 when almost by chance the study came to light and an investigation resulted in that the study was "ethically unjustified", stating that the men who were ill should have been given their medication (penicillin) as soon as it became available. This resulted in the mandatory use of the IRB prior to any study of this kind.
The Institutional Review Board (IRB) is the group that approves any type of proposed researched where humans are used as participants. In 1974, the National Research Act was passed as a result of the Tuskegee experiments, which mandates that ALL federally-funded research done with humans goes through the IRB process by law.
First violation- Deceit
The participants were not told the purpose of the study, nor was the terminology explained. The term "bad blood" was a constant descriptor for many different illnesses and the men were not properly told what they were there fore. They were not told that they had syphilis either, so that means that must have been tested without consent. Moreover, Heintzelman (1995) explains that they even LIED to the participants by telling them that all they were going to get were "spinal shots".
Second violation- Consent
We already know that there was deception in informing the participants, but there was also a violation as to how to obtain the consent of the participants. The researchers knew that these men were not educated, poorly cared for, with no access to health care and in dire economical conditions. They used that to influence them to consent as they presented themselves as figures of safety and authority. There was no procedure in place nor protocol to obtain their permissions, other than a signature (half of them could not even write their names) and a badly explained rationale for the study under the pretenses that they will get better.
Third- Withholding of treatment.
First, do no harm" is the first sentence of Galene's oath which all medical doctors take. In the Tuskegee experiments the men were purposely NOT treated hence allowing a perfectly curable disease to finish them. This was done underestimating and disrespecting the rights of the participants and putting them straight into harmful hands.
Discrimination, social inequality, and other factors come into play when it comes to the analysis of the Tuskegee experiments. The point is that nobody kept accurate records, an entire sector of society (blacks) were continuously allowed to be exposed to sexual activity by not telling them that they were sick in the first place, and they were lied to in order to get their permission to test them...until they all die. Taking into consideration that US Public Health commission gave way to the research leaves a lot to be said about where we were as a country years back.