In 1946, hundreds of Guatemalan prisoners were infected with syphilis by American doctors in order to test penicillin.
A few important things to note about the Guatemalan Sphyilis Experiment include:
> Dr. John Charles Cutler, from the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment in the US, had a major role;
> A major difference between Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment and the Guatemalan Spyhilis Experiment is that the Guatemalan prisoners were purposely infected;
> The National Institute of Health (NIH) paid syphilis-carrying prostitutes to infect the prisoners who were involved in the study; if the prostitutes could not infect the prisoners, open sores were created and the infection was administered;
> Both experiments were carried out to test the ability of penicillin.
In the mid-twentieth century, there were very a few ethical and legal regulations about performing experiments and taking samples from patients by today’s standards. The treatment of people like the prisoners from Guatemala and Henrietta Lacks’s story is deplorable and extremely unethical. However, their situations did force organizations and governments to step up and make sure participants in the future would be safe.
For more information about the Guatemalan Syphilis Experiment, check out the New York Times article from October 1, 2010.
School of Library Science