"One, the Tuskegee study, observed the course of untreated syphilis among hundreds of men who were infected naturally in Alabama. The study began in 1932, and it was not halted by the United States Public Health Service until 1972, after a whistle-blower complained that infected patients in the study were not given penicillin, the standard therapy after World War II. Some participants died of the disease, some of their sexual partners contracted it, and some children were born infected.
"In the other study, even more odious, American researchers from 1946 to 1948 intentionally exposed more than 1,300 Guatemalans, including many in mental institutions, to syphilis, gonorrhea and chancroid. Although Dr. Parran had said that consent was needed before individuals participated in experiments, no evidence exists that the American researchers sought such permission. Dr. Parran told a contemporary that the Guatemalan experiments could not have been conducted in the United States."
I’m no medical historian, and my knowledge of medical ethics is largely self-taught and goes back only a few years. And yet, I’ve devoted a significant amount of time to volunteer work with a group of citizens in the Boston area who are passionate about both the practitioners and beneficiaries of medical science, and about considering the standards medical professionals are held to, and hold themselves to. And chief among my lessons learned is that many in the medical profession and the public they serve have pitifully and dangerously short memories.
And so the lessons of Dr. Parran should be remembered, not erased.