Steven Robinson | 2 Oct 07:52 2010

Unearthed - US syphilis experiments in Guatemala

Wellesley professor unearths a horror: Syphilis experiments in Guatemala
 US apologizes for performing unethical study in 1940s

By Stephen Smith
The Boston Globe
October 2, 2010

Picking through musty files in a Pennsylvania archive, a Wellesley College
professor made a heart-stopping discovery: US government scientists in the
1940s deliberately infected hundreds of Guatemalans with syphilis and
gonorrhea in experiments conducted without the subjects' permission.

Medical historian Susan M. Reverby happened upon the documents four or five
years ago while researching the infamous Tuskegee syphilis study and later
shared her findings with US government officials.

The unethical research was not publicly disclosed until yesterday, when
President Obama and two Cabinet secretaries apologized to Guatemala's
government and people and pledged to never repeat the mistakes of the past -
an era when it was not uncommon for doctors to experiment on patients
without their consent.

Even so, Reverby found in the files a story of almost singular exploitation
and deception, conducted in a foreign land because, the nation's surgeon
general at the time acknowledged, it could not have been done in the United

"I was just completely blown away,'' Reverby said in an interview. "I was

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