The Shocking Presence of Racism in Recent Medical Research
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The Shocking Presence of Racism in Recent Medical Research

As recently as 1972, government funded unethical research was being done on Black American males.

The Shocking Presence of Racism in Recent Medical Research
The Conversation

There are many people that are constantly wondering why Black Americans are so upset and claiming that racism is real. Some say they are making up the racism, that it is only happening because of the way they are acting. However, what most people do not realize, is that Black Americans have been treated in a seriously inhumane way not too long ago. They were treated as human guinea pigs in a medical research study as recently at 1972.

The study was done on 600 Black American males, 399 of the men had syphilis and 201 was the control group.The point of the experiment was to study how syphilis affected the black male. Initially, it was called "The Tuskegee Study of Syphilis in the Negro Male." It was intended to last only six months, however, it lasted for 40 years: from 1932 to 1972. The research was conducted without informed consent of the patients. The men involved in the study were from a very poor area and were easily enticed to join the study by the promise of free medical exams, free meals on examination days, rides to and from the clinic, and free treatment for any other illnesses besides syphilis.

The men in the study were not told they had syphilis. They were merely told they were being treated for "bad blood," which was a term commonly known around the area to mean a variety of illnesses, including, but not limited to, fatigue, syphilis, and anemia. At the time, there was no known cure for syphilis. 10 years after the start of the experiment, penicillin was found to be the cure for the disease. The men in the study were not informed of the cure, nor were they ever given it over the course of the 40 years that the study went on.

The most unethical part of the story was that the men could have been treated and lives could have been saved, if they were given the treatment as soon as it was readily available. If left untreated, the disease can cause major issues such as difficulty coordinating muscle movements, paralysis, numbness, blindness, and dementia. None of the men were given the correct treatment. They were not given the treatment because the researchers were more interesting in finding out what syphilis did to a human body through the men's autospies.

Finally, in 1972, a reporter for the Associated Press, Jean Heller, wrote the story Syphilis Victims in U.S. Study Went Untreated for 40 Years. It was released simultaneously in New York and Washington, D.C. and suddenly became a major social issue. The study stopped shortly after. The remaining men in the study, along with their wives and children, were eventually awarded major compensation for the troubles they had been put through. President Bill Clinton, in 1997, issued a public apology on behalf of the entire government. During his apology he stated, "The United States government did something that was wrong -- deeply, profoundly, morally wrong."

In conclusion, for the people who believe racism against Black Americans does not exist, or that there is no cause for Blacks to be upset or feel cheated out of anything, here is validation for the way most Black Americans are feeling. With a wound so recent, it is hard to imagine that it could heal so easily. If this study continued, uninterrupted, for 40 years, how could the world be sure that far worse situations aren't occurring, merely on account of an individual's race?

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