By: Taren Vaughan
Contracting STDs normally stems from having unprotected sex with an infected partner. If you are abstaining from all sexual activity, you are pretty much cleared from being exposed to them right? Well little do we know, we are not always as safe from them as we think we are. Last Friday, the U.S. government issued a statement of apology for exposing hundreds of Guatemalans to not one, but two sexually transmitted diseases. The study was very similar to that of the one that took place in Tuskegee, Alabama where hundreds of African American males were given syphilis and lied to about being treated for their illness. One major difference was that there was no stated reason as to why the study involving the Guatemalans ever took place. And to make matters worse, the documents from the experiment were “lost”, and had not been revealed until now. We can’t be too surprised by that.
It was also mentioned that participants in this study were asked to spread their STDs to other people. Excuse me? You mean to tell me that these individuals were encouraged to infect other people with these diseases? So I assume that this was okay for them to encourage study participants to do this since it’s not HIV? Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebelius surely didn’t stand behind the actions of this team of researchers:
“The sexually transmitted disease inoculation study conducted from 1946-1948 in Guatemala was clearly unethical,” “Although these events occurred more than 64 years ago, we are outraged that such reprehensible research could have occurred under the guise of public health. We deeply regret that it happened, and we apologize to all the individuals who were affected by such abhorrent research practices.”
U.S. government researchers involved with the experiment did issue an apology for their display of unethical conduct. And the government vowed to implement stricter policies when it comes to using ethical research methods. But is that acceptable? You put these people’s lives in danger, resulting in death for some who were involved, and that’s the best you can do? Anytime you do things “in the name of science”, it saves you from the real punishment that you probably should receive for pulling a stunt like this.
Another major thing that sticks out when it comes to these past experiments is the race of the participants. During these time periods, the educational backgrounds of African Americans and Guatemalans were not anywhere near what they are now. We hadn’t obtained the knowledge that we now possess when it comes to science and all other fields of study for that matter. So it was quite easy to get away with something like this. I’m sure researchers knew that these study participants wouldn’t be drilling them with numerous questions about the process and reason behind the study and how they would be affected by it.
Syphilis is curable by taking a round of antibiotics as we all know. But if left untreated it can lead to severe brain damage, blindness and death. And gonorrhea, and all STDs in general, can cause bodily harm if they are not detected early enough. And when it comes to women, harboring numerous sexually transmitted diseases can prevent us from having children. Some of these participants were stripped of their right to refusal and many of them either lost their lives or had them severely altered. These researchers however, get a slap on the wrist and are walking around freely, without a care in the world. In all essence, these medical researchers were taking others’ lives into their own hands. And under no circumstance is that right, whether it’s related to science or not.