Of all of the breaches of medical ethics in history, it's hard to think of one more heinous than the "Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male," which was conducted by the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS), working with the Tuskegee Institute, from 1932 to 1972. Researchers initially recruited 600 men, including 399 who tested positive for syphilis ...
Researchers didn't tell the infected men that they had the disease or that the purpose of the study was to document how the disease destroyed their bodies. The men were only told they would receive free medical care for "bad blood," a vague term that didn't imply a specific medical condition. And even when penicillin, an effective treatment for syphilis, became available in 1947, the researchers didn't offer it to them [source: CDC]. Between 28 and 100 of the participants died from syphilis, but the death toll may have been higher, since they may have infected others unknowingly [source: Tuskegee Syphilis Legacy Committee].
The resulting outcry forced PHS to shut down the study in 1972 [source: Beech].
The following summer, the government settled a $10 million lawsuit brought by survivors and their families and provided them with lifetime medical care [source: CDC].
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