How We Sold Our Soul–The Guatemala Inoculation Experiments

The Articles in the Category cover a vast range of history not only in our country but in the world as well. The category is entitled “How We Sold Our Soul”. In many cases our history has hinged on compromises being made by the powers at be. They say hind-sight is 20/20, which is why I am discussing these land mark decisions in this manner. The people that made these decisions in many cases thought they were doing the right thing. However in some instances they were made for expediency and little thought was given to the moral ramifications and the fallout that would result from them. I hope you enjoy these articles. The initial plan is to discuss 10 compromises, but as time progresses I am sure that number will increase.

The Guatemala inoculation experiments entailed a series of human rights violations that reminds us of the dangers involved in allowing scientific knowledge and national security to justify what the New York Times called, in 1947, “ethically impossible” actions.

Between 1946-1948, around 1,500 people in Guatemala—including prisoners, soldiers, prostitutes, psychiatric patients, and children—were enrolled without consent in unethical studies related to the testing and treatment of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) including syphilis, gonorrhea and canchroid. Among many procedures, they were intentionally infected with these diseases through sexual contact with paid prostitutes and by smearing the bacteria on open cuts and sores or inserting it in the eyes, rectum, or urethra.

The Guatemalan studies only fully became public when they were accidentally discovered in 2010. The U.S. National Institutes of Health and the Pan American Sanitary Bureau (which would later become the Pan American Health Organization) financed and institutionally supported the experiments. The Guatemalan government was also complicit and received compensation for its participation.

The documents discovered in 2010 revealed that Dr. John Cutler of the Public Health Service headed the Guatemalan experiments. Cutler would later be involved in the now-infamous (and more well-known) Tuskegee experiments in which hundreds of African Americans with syphilis were studied without being provided treatment for the disease.

The U.S. government’s support for the Guatemalan experiments came primarily out of its need to reduce Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) in the military. Ever since the Civil War, STIs like gonorrhea and syphilis had incapacitated large numbers of troops and resulted in the loss of significant man-hours.

During World War Two, the government launched a full campaign to educate soldiers about the dangers of “VD” (venereal disease) and prevent it through the use of condoms and “Pro Kits” (prophylactic kits). This campaign made an explicit link between unprotected sex and the nation’s security. Government propaganda emphasized the image of women as carriers of VD and of VD as a threat to the war effort.

The prevention campaign was not effective enough, however. GIs continued to contract STIs, and the government wanted to find ways to treat and cure these diseases. Originally, scientists had begun to study STI treatments in 1944 in the U.S. Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana using documented consent. Yet the scientists were unable artificially to provoke infection in the prisoners. Backed by the U.S. government’s need to control VD in the military, scientists decided to move their operations out of the country—and into foreign bodies—in the hopes that they could expedite their findings.

On the left, government propaganda encouraging the use of 'Pro Kits.' On the right, government propaganda emphasizing the image of women as carriers of VD.
On the left, government propaganda encouraging the use of ‘Pro Kits.’ On the right, government propaganda emphasizing the image of women as carriers of VD.

By moving the study to Guatemala, researchers would have the option to test and observe “naturally” infected subjects (that is, infected through sex) without the need to obtain consent.

One of the first aims of the Guatemala experiments was to better understand serological testing for syphilis. Prisoners, leprosy patients, and psychiatric patients were all tested, but because of the high rate of false positive tests, Cutler also carried out hundreds of tests on children—primarily orphans—as a way to verify the testing methods themselves. There was no documentation of consent by the children’s parents or guardians for their participation in these tests.

In order to study STI treatments, multiple rounds of “natural infection” were attempted on the Guatemalan subjects. Prostitutes were used to infect men; some of these prostitutes were deliberately infected via cervical swabs of infected pus. When this method also proved highly ineffective in provoking infection, men were infected by having pus from men with gonorrhea or syphilitic material painfully rubbed onto their genitals or into their urethras, ingesting syphilitic material, or having it injected directly into their spinal fluid.

The goal was to provoke infection in order to test the effectiveness of prophylactic treatments. Ultimately, however, only some of the infected participants received any treatment at all, and the original goal of fully testing the efficacy of prophylactic treatment was never carried through.

Some of the subjects in the Guatemalan experiments.
Some of the subjects in the Guatemalan experiments

The story of the Guatemala inoculation experiments reminds us that the ethics of human subject research need to be continually re-examined and enforced (even when national security is raised as the justification). Also, they highlight that scientific inquiry must not only benefit developed regions at the expense of developing ones. As clinical trials continue to expand in regions like Latin America, ethical considerations must not only focus on consent, but also on addressing the healthcare needs of the populations where studies take place.

Over the twentieth century, the United States has put laws into place to protect human subjects in scientific research—largely inspired by outrage at the Tuskegee experiments. Nonetheless, the lesson of the need for constant vigilance is important because ethical breaches are not always as obvious as those of the Guatemala experiments.

Recently, the WHO has found that despite a marked increase in the export of Western clinical trials to Latin America, test populations there are not always ultimately able to afford or access the medications being tested. Further, in many parts of Latin America, access to healthcare is difficult or expensive. When faced with the option to participate in a clinical trial, people may sign up because of the lack of other options for possible treatments—even if they may only be receiving a placebo and even if their treatments may end when the trial concludes.

Despite advances in research and treatment for STIs, the prevalence of treatable STIs remains high in Latin America. This reflects underlying structural issues regarding access to healthcare and health information, and has serious public health implications. For example, up to 10% of pregnancies in Latin America occur in women with untreated syphilis – a condition that can lead to as many perinatal deaths as malaria or HIV. In the U.S. and northern Europe, the percentage of pregnant women testing positive for syphilis in recent years is less than half of what it is today in Latin America.

The legacy of unethical medical experiments has also led to distrust of the medical establishment. Amid the current crisis surrounding the Zika virus, Guatemalan citizens do not know where to turn for information and do not have access to adequate healthcare services for testing and treatment.

Resources, “The Guatemala Inoculation Experiments.” By Lydia Dixon;, “Guatemala syphilis experiments.” By Wikipedia Editors;


The Guatemala syphilis experiments were United States-led human experiments conducted in Guatemala from 1946 to 1948. The experiments were led by physician John Charles Cutler who also participated in the late stages of the Tuskegee syphilis experiment. Doctors infected various impoverished groups (including, but not limited to: sex workers, orphans, and prisoners) with syphilis, gonorrhea, and chancroid, without the informed consent of the subjects. The experiment resulted in at least 83 deaths. Serology studies continued through 1953 involving the same vulnerable populations in addition to children from state-run schools, an orphanage, and rural towns, though the intentional infection of patients ended with the original study. On October 1, 2010, the U.S. President, Secretary of State and Secretary of Health and Human Services formally apologized to Guatemala for the ethical violations that took place. Guatemala condemned the experiment as a crime against humanity. Multiple unsuccessful lawsuits have since been filed in the US.

Professor Susan Mokotoff Reverby of Wellesley College uncovered information about these experiments. Reverby found the documents in 2005 while researching the Tuskegee syphilis study, in Cutler’s archived papers, and shared her findings with United States government officials.

Francis Collins, the NIH director at the time of the revelations, called the experiments “a dark chapter in history of medicine” and commented that modern rules prohibit conducting human subject research without informed consent.

Historical Context

Beginning in 1947, rabbits were injected with penicillin for the purposes of syphilis prevention research. Around this same time, there was a large push by medical professionals, including the U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Thomas Parran, to further the knowledge of sexually transmitted diseases and discover more viable treatment options in humans. With the onset of World War II, this emphasis for new knowledge became stronger and won more supporters. This was largely due to an effort to protect the U.S. military population from the increasing infections of STDs such as gonorrhea as well as the particularly painful regimen of prophylaxis that involved in the injection of a silver proteinate into subjects’ penises. At the time, it was estimated that venereal diseases would affect 350,000 soldiers, which would equate to eradicating 2 armed divisions for an entire year. The cost of these losses, which would sum up to about $34 million at the time, put an urgent strain on research for STD treatments.

The first experiment following the push for new developments in STD treatment and preventative measures were the Terre Haute prison experiments from 1943–1944, which were conducted and supported by many of the same individuals who would go on to participate in the Guatemalan syphilis experiments only a few years later. The goal of this experiment was to find a more suitable STD prophylaxis, by infecting human subjects recruited from prison populations with gonorrhea. Though at first, the idea of using human subjects was controversial, the support of Dr. Thomas Parran, and Executive Officer of the U.S. Army Medical Corps, Colonel John A. Rodgers allowed Dr. John F. Mahoney and Dr. Cassius J. Van Slyke to begin implementing the experiments. Dr. John Cutler, a young associate of Dr. Mahoney, helped conduct the experiments, and went on to lead the Guatemala syphilis experiments.

The experiments in Terre Haute were the precursor for the Guatemalan experiments. It was the first to demonstrate how earnestly military leaders pushed for new developments to combat STDs and their willingness to infect human subjects, and also explained why the study clinicians would choose Guatemala—to avoid the ethical constraints related to individual consent, other adverse legal consequences, and bad publicity.

Study Details

The experiments were initially supposed to be held at a prison in Terre Haute, Indiana, but were moved to Guatemala after researchers had a hard time consistently infecting prisoners with gonorrhea. The move to Guatemala was suggested by Dr. Juan Funes, head of the Guatemalan Venereal Disease Control Department. The experiments were funded by a grant from the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) to the Pan American Sanitary Bureau and multiple Guatemalan government ministries also got involved. A study conducted at the Southern Georgia University argues that the selection of Guatemala as a location to conduct the syphilis experiments was a racially-motivated tactic by the U.S., considering that the study featured white physicians and researchers experimenting on subjects deemed by the U.S. as minority groups. Another study argues that the reasoning was due to Guatemalan prisoners’ privilege to pay for prostitutes, making it seem that infections were natural due to intercourse with an infected prostitute. The study was officially led by the U.S. Public Health Service, beginning in 1946, up until 1948.

The total number of subjects involved in the experiment is unclear. Some sources argue that about 1,500 study subjects were involved, although the findings were never published. Whereas, other sources state that over 5,000 individuals participated in the study, including children. The purpose of the study was to observe the efficacy of penicillin usage in preventing infection of sexually-transmitted diseases after sexual intercourse. As a result, around 696 Guatemalans were intentionally infected with syphilis, gonorrhea and chancroids. The study also aimed to discover medications other than penicillin to various venereal diseases.

In archived documents, Dr. Thomas Parran, Jr., the U.S. Surgeon General at the time of the experiments, acknowledged that the Guatemalan work could not be done domestically, and details were hidden from Guatemalan officials. Furthermore, the participants had not received the opportunity to provide informed consent since the purpose and details of the research were hidden from them.

Participants were subjected to the Syphilis bacteria through the introduction of permitted visits with infectious female sex workers, paid by the funds from the U.S. government. Other attempts at passing the pathogens to participants included pouring the bacteria onto various lightly-abraded body parts, such as male subjects’ genitalia, forearms and faces. Some subjects were even infected through forced perforation of the spine. Participants who then tested positive for syphilis were treated with penicillin. However, there is no evidence for adequate treatment having been provided to all subjects or whether infected individuals were cured.

While the study is known to have officially ended in 1948, doctors continued taking tissue samples and performing autopsies on former participants until 1958. Eighty-three individuals died during the course of the experiment, though it is unclear as to whether or not the inoculations were the source of these deaths.

Study Methods

The initial attempts to infect subjects of the experiment consisted of workers from the USPHS inoculating prostitutes with germs that had grown in rabbits, and then paying them to have sex with prisoners. Prostitutes in Guatemala were required to be tested twice a week for STD infection at a government clinic. For the purposes of the experiments, infected sex workers were instead sent to Dr. Cutler by the head of the Guatemalan Ministry of Public Health. They operated under an assumption that one prostitute could have sex with up to 8 men in 71 minutes, creating a large rate of infection. These attempts failed at producing infections quick enough due to the prisoners refusing repeated blood drawings. Researchers went to the direct inoculation of subjects after Dr. Cutler accepted an offer from Dr. Carlos Salvado. Salvado was the director of the Asilo de Alienados, a psychiatric hospital in Guatemala City. This hospital was notably understaffed and lacked rudimentary equipment and medicines. $1500 that was originally intended to go to volunteers at the prison was given to the psychiatric hospital for an antiepileptic drug called Dilantin and other necessary equipment. Doctors would often inject strains of syphilis into patients’ spinal fluid or wear away the skin to make infection easier. These strains that they infected patients with were collected from other infected patients or from “street strains”, which are not defined. After the patients were exposed to syphilis, only about half of the patients were given treatment for the infection. 83 patients died during the experiments, but the relation between experiment involvement and death was unsubstantiated. In 1947, Dr. Cutler began experimenting with gonorrhea on Guatemalan soldiers. About 600 soldiers were infected with the disease after a year and a half. Infected sex workers were used to infect the soldiers, and gonorrheal pus from soldiers’ penises were injected into other soldiers. Chancroid experiments were also conducted spontaneously on about 80 soldiers, in which doctors would scratch soldiers’ arms and infect the wounds. Consent was given by soldiers’ officials or patient doctors, but was not reported to have been given by the subjects themselves.

Patients from the Guatemalan psychiatric hospital who participated as test subjects in the syphilis experiments between 1946 to 1948

A documented subject profile provides a detailed description of what the subjects faced within this experiment:

Berta was a female patient in the Psychiatric Hospital… in February 1948, Berta was injected in her left arm with syphilis. A month later, she developed scabies (an itchy skin infection caused by a mite). Several weeks later, Dr. Cutler noted that she also developed red bumps where he had injected her arm, lesions on her arms and legs, and her skin was beginning to waste away from her body. Berta was not treated for syphilis until three months after her injection. Soon after, on August 23, Dr. Cutler wrote that Berta appeared as if she was going to die, but he did not specify why. That same day he put gonorrheal pus from another male subject into both of Berta’s eyes, as well as in her urethra and rectum. He also re-infected her with syphilis. Several days later, Berta’s eyes were filled with pus from the gonorrhea, and she was bleeding from her urethra. Three days later, on August 27, Berta died.


In total, 1,308 people were confirmed to have been a part of this experiment. Of this group, 678 individuals were documented as getting some form of treatment. However, some reports say that up to 5,128 individuals were monitored for symptoms or became a part of the experiment through natural infection. The populations involved consisted of child and adult commercial sex workers, prisoners, soldiers, orphans, leprosy patients, and mental hospital patients. Much of these populations consisted of indigenous Guatemalans and Guatemalans living in poverty. Their ages ranged from 10 to 72, though the average subject was in their 20s.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention acknowledges that “the design and conduct of the studies was unethical in many respects, including deliberate exposure of subjects to known serious health threats, lack of knowledge of and consent for experimental procedures by study subjects, and the use of highly vulnerable populations.” A total of 83 subjects died, though the exact relationship to the experiment remains undocumented.

Study Clinicians

Thomas Parran

Thomas Parran was the sixth Surgeon General of the United States that served from 1936 to 1948. Parran’s profound interest in STD research can be seen when he testified before congress in 1938 for expanded funding for public health prevention efforts and scientific research in the STD field. Prior to his involvement in Guatemala, he oversaw part of the Tuskegee syphilis experiment and the Terre Haute Prison Experiments. Parran describes syphilis as being “biologically different” in African Americans and said that African American women “remained infected two and one-half times as long as the white woman.” The biological difference in syphilis among races provided justification for the Tuskegee experiments to continue.

In Guatemala, he was responsible for granting the final approval for the Guatemala Syphilis research grant. His views on racially driven pseudoscience made America pursue a new group of patients in Guatemala. He was also aware that intentional and uninformed infection of syphilis was occurring in Guatemala. Parran once said to Dr. Cutler, “You know, we couldn’t do such an experiment in this country [united states]” meaning he was aware of the ethical issues of what he was doing in Guatemala.

After serving as Surgeon General, Thomas Parran began a career working as the first dean of the new School of Public Health at the University of Pittsburgh. He retired from his administrative role in university and became president of the Avalon Foundation, Affiliated with Mellon family, and became active in the A. W Mellon Educational and Charitable Trust. He died in 1968 and The University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health named the Parran Hall after him in 1969. The building was renamed in 2018 due to his involvement in unethical experimentation.

Dr. John F. Mahoney

Prior to his involvement in the Guatemalan Syphilis experiment, Mahoney graduated from The University of Pittsburgh medical school in 1914. By 1918 he was titled the Assistant Surgeon at the United States Public Health Service. In 1929, Dr. Mahoney worked as the director of the Venereal Disease Research Lab in Staten Island, where the Terre Haute experiments began in 1943, this is also where Cutler first assisted him. After stopping the Terre Haute experiments for lack of accurate infection of subjects with gonorrhea, Dr. Mahoney moved on to study the effects of penicillin on syphilis. His research found huge success for penicillin treatments and the US army embraced it in STD prescription. Although this seemed promising, Mahoney and his collaborators questioned the long term effectiveness of eliminating the disease altogether in individuals.

Mahoney, Cutler, Parran, and other researchers, felt that a smaller, more controlled group of individuals to study would be more helpful in finding this cure. This led to the use of citizens in Guatemala as subjects. Mahoney was a member of the syphilis study section that approved the Guatemala research Grant. During the Guatemala syphilis study, Mahoney was the primary supervisor of the experiments and he would receive Cutler’s reports on the experiments. In 1946, while the syphilis study was ongoing, John Mahoney was awarded the Lasker award for discovering penicillin as a cure for syphilis.

After completion of the Guatemala Syphilis study, John F. Mahoney became the chairman of the World Health Organization in 1948. In 1950, he took the position of Commissioner of the New York City Department of Health where he worked until his death in 1957.

Dr. John Charles Cutler

The experiments were led by United States Public Health Service physician John Charles Cutler, who had earlier joined the Public Health Service in 1942 and served as a commissioned officer. Cutler participated in the similar Terre Haute prison experiments, in which volunteer prisoners were infected with gonorrhea spanning from 1943-1944. Cutler also later took part in the late stages of the Tuskegee syphilis experiment where black Americans were lied to about getting available treatment for syphilis. Over 100 people died due to lack of treatment. In a 1993 documentary about the Tuskegee syphilis study titled “Deadly Deception,” John Charles Cutler defends his position saying, “It was important that they were supposedly untreated, and it would be undesirable to go ahead and use large amounts of penicillin to treat the disease, because you’d interfere with the study.”

While the Tuskegee experiment followed the natural progression of syphilis in those already infected, in Guatemala, doctors deliberately infected healthy people with the diseases, some of which can be fatal if untreated. The goal of the study seems to have been to determine the effect of penicillin in the prevention and treatment of venereal diseases. The researchers paid prostitutes infected with syphilis to have sex with prisoners, while other subjects were infected by directly inoculating them with the bacterium. Through intentional exposure to gonorrhea, syphilis, and chancroid, a total of 1,308 people were involved in the experiments. Of that group, with an age range of 10-72, 678 individuals (52%) can be said to have received a form of treatment. Hidden from the public, John Charles Cutler utilized healthy individuals in order to improve what he called “pure science.” Dr. Cutler participated in intentional infection experiments in Guatemala until his departure in December 1948.

After the Guatemala Syphilis study, Cutler was asked by the World Health Organization to head an India-based program for demonstrating venereal disease for Southeast Asia in 1949.

John Cutler went on to become Assistant Surgeon General of the U.S Public Health Service in 1958. In 1967, he would end his tenure when he was appointed professor of International Health at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health. In 1968, he became acting dean of the school and served until 1969. After his death in 2008, his roles in the Tuskegee experiment were leaked and he was stripped of his legacy.

Genevieve Stout

Genevieve Stout was a bacteriologist for the Pan American Sanitary Bureau who promoted and established serological research in Guatemalan laboratories. She initiated the VDRL (Venereal Disease Research Laboratory) and Training Center within Central America starting in 1948 and she stayed in Guatemala until 1951. Dr. Mahoney appointed her to manage the laboratory in Guatemala after Dr. Cutler left in 1948. Here she conducted several independent serological experiments with the help of Dr. Funes and Dr. Salvado for STD research.

Dr. Juan Funes and Dr. Carlos Salvado

Dr. Funes and Dr. Salvado were also employees of the Pan American Sanitary Bureau who remained in Guatemala after the work of Dr. Cutler.  In order to advance in their careers, they opted to stay and continue observations on subjects of the Syphilis experiments, including data collections from orphans, inmates, psychiatric patients, and school kids. These periodic data collections consisted of blood specimens and lumbar punctures from participants. Data was shipped backed to the United States where many of these blood samples tested positive for syphilis. Dr. Funes and Dr. Salvado collected samples from participants until 1953.

Dr. Funes was Chief of the Venereal Disease section at the Guatemalan National Department of Health and was responsible for referring sex workers with STDs from the Venereal Disease and Sexual Prophylaxis Hospital (VDSPH) to Dr. Cutler. Dr. Carlos Salvado was the director of the Psychiatric Hospital in Guatemala where parts of the syphilis study were conducted. Dr. Salvado was an active participant in the intentional exposure experiments.



Manuel Gudiel Garcia v. Kathleen Sebelius

In March 2011, seven plaintiffs filed a federal class-action lawsuit against the U.S. government claiming damages for the Guatemala experiments. This case argued that the United States was at fault due to not asking for consent. This lawsuit asked for money to compensate for medical damages and livelihood because most of the families were living in poverty. Many Guatemalans believed that the U.S. apology may have not been enough. The Guatemala Syphilis experiment has brought ethics back into public focus for Medical Research. Current records show that studies sent infected prostitutes to have sex with men in prison. As the U.S. has strongly said that the research practices are completely “unethical”, “abhorrent”, and  “reprehensible” which caused a thorough investigation into the case. The case failed when Senior United States District Judge Reggie Walton determined that the U.S. government has immunity from liability for actions committed outside of the U.S.

Estate of Arturo Giron Alvarez et al. v. The Johns Hopkins University et al.

In April 2015, 774 plaintiffs launched a lawsuit against Johns Hopkins University, the pharmaceutical company Bristol-Myers Squibb, and the Rockefeller Foundation seeking $1 billion in damages, with one main motive being that the lawsuits held the University accountable for the experiment itself because the doctors held important roles on panels that reviewed the federal spending on research for other sexually-transmitted-diseases. As these plaintiffs claim that John Hopkins is active in these experiments they even stated “they did not limit their involvement to design, planning, funding and authorization of the Experiments; instead, they exercised control over, supervised, supported, encouraged, participated in and directed the course of the Experiments.” The hope was that compensation could be attained by targeting private institutions rather than the federal government. During the experiments, which took place in the 1940s-50s and was overseen by US researcher Dr. John C. Cutler, as hundreds of Guatemalans were infected with syphilis, gonorrhea and many other sexually-transmitted diseases.

In January 2019, U.S. District Judge Theodore Chuang rejected the defendants’ argument that a recent Supreme Court decision shielding foreign corporations from lawsuits in U.S. courts over human rights abuses abroad also applied to domestic corporations absent Congressional authorization and decided to admit the trial. However, legal experts said the lawsuits arguments could have been a stretch, today professors who frequently serve on volunteer basis with the National Institute of Health: “for example, are more likely to be considered to be acting independently and not in their capacity as university faculty said Holly Fernandez Lynch who is an executive director of the Ptrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy Biotechnology and Bioethics at Harvard University Law School.” The case is Estate of Arturo Giron Alvarez et al v. The Johns Hopkins University et al, U.S. District Court, District of Maryland, No. 15-00950. The case was dismissed by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Apology and Response

In October 2010, the U.S. government formally apologized and announced that the violation of human rights in that medical research was still to be condemned, regardless of how much time had passed.[4][5][6] Following the apology, Barack Obama requested an investigation to be conducted by the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues on November 24, 2010. The commission concluded nine months later that the experiments “involved gross violations of ethics as judged against both the standards of today and the researchers’ own understanding”. In a joint statement, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius said:

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. The conduct exhibited during the study does not represent the values of the US, or our commitment to human dignity and great respect for the people of Guatemala.

President Barack Obama apologized to President Álvaro Colom, who had called the experiments “a crime against humanity”.

“It is clear from the language of the report that the U.S. researchers understood the profoundly unethical nature of the study. In fact the Guatemalan syphilis study was being carried out just as the “Doctors’ Trial” was unfolding at Nuremberg (December 1946 – August 1947), when 23 German physicians stood trial for participating in Nazi programs to euthanize or medically experiment on concentration camp prisoners.”

As a response to the dehumanization by the human experiment, the Nuremberg Code, and Helsinki Code in 1967, were developed to govern ethics in medical research. Research like this deserves the need for informed consent in any type of research in general, and it should prohibit experiments where injury, disability, or death to the participant is reasonably expected. Nevertheless, “science and society should never outweigh the wellbeing of the subject”. “The way that this case in Peru was handled though, supports the view that – include monetary redress and criminal investigations – in Guatemala matter. Some would also argue that the Guatemala study constituted torture or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, and the US has an obligation under international law to pursue criminal investigations and provide the victims with adequate financial compensation.”

The U.S. government asked the Institute of Medicine to conduct a review of these experiments beginning January 2011. While the Institute of Medicine conducted their review, the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues was asked to convene a panel of international experts to review the current state of medical research on humans around the world and ensure that these sorts of incidents do not occur again. The Commission report, Ethically Impossible: STD Research in Guatemala from 1946 to 1948, published in September 2011, aimed to answer the following four questions:

  1. What occurred in Guatemala between 1946 and 1948 involving a series of STD exposure studies funded by the U.S. PHS?
  2. To what extent were U.S. government officials and others in the medical research establishment at that time aware of the research protocols and to what extent did they actively facilitate or assist in them?
  3. What was the historical context in which these studies were done?
  4. How did the studies comport with or diverge from the relevant medical and ethical standards and conventions of the time?

The investigation concluded that “the Guatemala experiments involved unconscionable basic violations of ethics, even as judged against the researchers’ own recognition of the requirements of the medical ethics of the day.” Even besides the fact that U.S never truly apologize for the study, as Human rights activists have called for subjects’ families to be compensated. As of 2017, the families still have not been compensated even though there have been several lawsuits filed.

How We Sold Our Soul Postings