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Published on Mar 17, 2011
Epidemics in Western Society Since 1600 (HIST 234)
The Tuskegee Syphilis Study, carried out in Macon, Alabama, from 1932 to 1972, is a notorious episode in the checkered history of medical experimentation. In one of the most economically disadvantaged parts of the U.S., researchers deceived a group of 399 black male syphilitics into participating in a study with no therapeutic value. These "volunteers" were not treated as patients, but rather as experimental subjects, or walking cadavers. Even after the development of penicillin, the Tuskegee group was denied effective treatment. Despite regularly published scholarly articles, forty years passed before there was any protest in the medical community. The aftereffects of the study, along with the suffering of its victims, include a series of congressional investigations, the drafting of medical ethics guidelines, and the establishment of independent review boards.