Tuskegee Syphilis Study

Tuskegee Syphilis Study














Tuskegee Syphilis Study

The defamed Tuskegee Syphilis Study that was restricted to African American men is understood to be the largest and most controversial non-therapeutic experiment on human beings, which was initiated by the United States Public Health Service (USPHS) in the year 1932. The primary objective of the experiment was to establish the natural course undertaken by latent syphilis virus in an estimated 400 men of African American descent in Tuskegee, Alabama (National Cable Satellite Corporation, 2001). The study was marked by controversies of failure to gain consent and provide adequate information to more than 200 new subjects over the aim of the experiment given that they were initially free from syphilis before being subsequently subjected to injections with the disease. They were lured with promises of special and free treatment.

The primary issue that arose after this ill-fated study was the need for enhanced processes in obtaining informed consent from patients in regard to various medical procedures. Informed consent is critical in terms of using human beings as subjects in medical research. This is because it provides them with information in regard to all aspects of research and the reasonableness, which plays a role in influencing their respective decisions for participation. There is need for government clarification in terms of the obligations of researchers towards the use of human subjects (National Cable Satellite Corporation, 2001). Such obligations include provision of information and enabling the participants to understand the consequences and overall purpose, and objective of conducting the study. Providing participants with an understanding of the implications of their participation is critical towards ensuring an ethical research process, especially in incidences whereby there is health or personal risks for the participants.

The government should also ensure that misrepresentation of information to individuals with an aim of manipulating them due to their race or socioeconomic position is prohibited and punishable by law. This is critical given that human subjects are easily manipulated due to poverty using finances as a basis for persuading them to participate in research. The subjects in the Tuskegee experiment were manipulated by the researchers because of their socioeconomic position and more so due to racial profiling (National Cable Satellite Corporation, 2001). Furthermore, researchers should be prohibited from using ambiguous terms with the aim of misleading potential subjects because of their presumed levels of illiteracy and socioeconomic status.

In conducting health related research that demands the need for human subjects, it is critical to ensure that participation is voluntary from the potential candidates. Collaborating with local community based organizations would enable easy access to potential subjects for health related research. Such partnerships can be used as a means of ensuring that the researcher is able to ensure adequate consideration of patient welfare. The tasks of such organizations would be to ensure that the potential participants are provided with adequate information over the role, potential risks, and objectives of a given research.

The welfare of the participants is usually central towards the collaboration between community based organizations and researchers. The aim also includes ensuring that the researcher operates within ethical and legal standards provided in medical research. Furthermore, this is also inclusive of ensuring that the common interests of the local communities are included within the research to ensure that the research serves its optimal purpose in benefiting the local community. Moreover, local community organizations should be driven to ensure that incidences of medical malfeasance and aspects of racial profiling as witnessed in the Tuskegee experiment are reported to the appropriate state agencies for legal action.























National Cable Satellite Corporation. (2001). Tuskegee Syphilis Study. National Cable Satellite Corporation. Retrieved from http://www.c-span.org/video/?168001-1/tuskegee-syphilis-study


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