'It almost sounds too horrific to be true: a government injecting people with syphilis intentionally so they can be used to test antibiotics.
nfortunately, for hundreds of Guatemalans, that nightmare was a reality in the 1940s, and it was the U.S. government carrying out the heinous acts – and it was just one of many occasions where humans have been unwittingly used as guinea pigs to test drugs.
Pharmaceutical company Bristol-Myers Squibb, Johns Hopkins University and the Rockefeller Foundation have now been ordered by a federal judge to face a $1 billion lawsuit over the roles they played in the horrific incident. A group of 444 victims and relatives are suing the defendants over the experiment, which sought to test out penicillin – a new drug at the time – and find ways to stop sexually transmitted diseases.
During the 1940s and 1950s, American researchers carried out a series of highly unethical experiments on thousands of Guatemalan sex workers, prisoners, mental health patients, and soldiers; some of the victims were reportedly as young as 10. This was carried out with the U.S. Public Health Service, and the Guatemalan government gave its approval initially.
It was later discovered, however, that many of the study’s more disturbing aspects had been kept secret from Guatemalan officials at the time. Guatemala was reportedly chosen for the study because sex work was legal there and workers were required to get health inspections twice a week, thereby offering a somewhat controlled study environment.
The idea was to determine whether antibiotics can prevent STDs like syphilis before the symptoms appear in people who have been exposed. They initially recruited workers who had syphilis to have sexual relations with prisoners, but they later resorted to directly infecting volunteers without getting informed consent. Many of those infected were left untreated, and 83 deaths have been linked to the study.'
Read more: Judge allows lawsuit to move forward for medical experimentation victims intentionally injected with syphilis
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