March 3, 2024

More shameful syphilis experiments by US doctors

Hi there,

Before I forget, there will be no BioEdge
next week, as its staff are on holiday. Back on October 16!

Bioethics stories seem to come in waves. Sometimes
it’s stem cells, then euthanasia, then organ donation. This week, it’s
institutional abuse and lack of informed consent.

From Bulgaria comes a report on homes for
mentally disabled children. It makes harrowing reading. In a country which is a
member of the EU, mentally-disabled children have been allowed to starve to
death in orphanages. And then from Denmark comes a report about lobotomies.
These were banned there in the 1980s, but not before 300 mentally disabled
children had the discredited operation.

But the most shameful of these stories
comes from Guatemala. In the 1940s American public health officials
deliberately infected nearly 700 men and women with syphilis without their
consent. Worst of all, those overseeing the project were fully aware that this
breached ethical standards. An American researcher uncovered the experiments in
some dusty archives.

President Obama has been on the phone to
his counterpart in Guatemala apologising for these violations of human rights.
So he should.

Michael Cook