Tuskegee Experiment

From iGeek
Jump to: navigation, search

The Tuskegee experiments (as horrendous as they were) are exaggerated to be that white doctors with the approval of the U.S. government gave black men syphilis to secretly study the effects of the disease: institutional racism! None of that is really true.

What really happened?

After a Norwegian study on the impacts of syphilis on white males, the Tuskegee study group wanted to repeat it, and so recruited black caregivers, from a black college (Tuskegee University), to track the impacts of the disease on black males (399 syphilitic, and 201 clean patients), who already had the disease, which was openly published in medical journals.

15 years into the 40 year study, we discovered a cure (penicillin treatment), and 240 men that enlisted in the military were cured (against the wishes of some researchers), but another 100+ were never informed of their malady, sometimes passing the disease to their wives and children. (You hear the 600 number, but it was really only ≈100 that were wronged).

Once the public and wider government learned of the details of the study in 1972, they were so appalled that we demanded informed consent laws for all future studies (to prevent that from happening to anyone again). It was NOT widely approved of, or accepted by a wider institution. It was a very narrow group of bad actors (of both races) that let it happen.


So the myth that people believe is quite different from what actually happened.

It wasn't really the government doing it or approving of it. It was more that it was allowed to continue on a small cohort after a cure had been found (because the study was already in process), and other people had sort of forgotten about it, after a cure. The ethics changed after a cure was found -- but nobody re-questioned a system/study that was already in process). Once the government and publics attention was made aware, we stopped that shit and did our best to prevent it from happening again.

It was not the american public or wider government that approved it and drove it knowingly (institutional racism) -- it was a few bad apples in a black university (and overseeing it) that didn't stop it when they could have. And as soon as the broader nation/government was made aware of the oversight, they slapped down on it hard, paid reparations, and was appalled. That was NOT publicly approved of behavior -- and is not a reflection on anyone that didn't know it was happening.

Was it racist? I don't know the motives -- to me it seems like something that could have happened if it was a white, asian or women's university as well. It was more a failure of the people involved to re-question a process that was in place. It's still morally grotesque, and should have never happened. But the context that is omitted does change what happened dramatically. It wasn't whites giving it to blacks because of systemic racism. It was both races following a group that already had the disease when it was incurable -- and not stopping the research the moment there was a cure. And it was mimicking a study that was done to whites first.

It was wrong no matter what group it went to -- but the bigger issue is not the race of the victims (which is what too many focus on), but that there were victims and it shows one of the biggest problems with bureaucracies -- they have momentum and continue long past the need and rarely question the changing landscape (when they should). If you cure the bigger problem of bureaucracies, it would have never happened. If you focus on race, it might not have happened to black men, but it still might have happened to others.


📚 References