The Tuskegee Untreated Syphilis

Medical unethical behavior is highly discouraged at all times since the practice involves risking the lives of human beings. The Tuskegee untreated syphilis experimental study presents the most extreme levels of medical unethical conduct. This document seeks to uncover several of the numerous unethical conducts that took place during the experiment.

  1. Selecting the study samples proved difficult than anticipated by USPHS projected. Dr. Vonderlehr spent a lot of time visiting the largely uneducated, poverty-stricken populace of farmers in search for test subjects. According the USPHS report the prevalence of syphilis was supposed to be thirty-five percent, however, only twenty percent were infected this significantly reduced the targeted test subject numbers (Brandt, n.d.). Therefore, in order to get the cooperation of the locals, they were told that they were ill and would receive free treatment, which was untrue. The participants include both infected and the unaffected. This ensured the numbers of test subjects were acquired. They were additionally offered therapy, which was to lure them into the experiment.
  •  Another ethical concern regards the actuality that the USPHS deliberately failed to tell the men that they were participants of an experimental study. Making matters even worse were made to believe that they being treated for “bad blood” a colloquial phrase for syphilis. They were convinced to think the exercise was similar the one carried out by Julius Fund a number of years earlier (Brandt, n.d.). This made the men so eager to engage and participate in the exercise for medical care, such that, the numbers of medical defaulters reduced significantly. The USPHS deliberately practiced an unethical act of withholding information and lying.
  • Vonderlehr in order for preserving the subjects’ interests in his study provided a majority of the men with non-effective mercurial ointment drug. Whilst, a few of the other men actually were given inadequate neoarsphenamine dosages. This unethical behavior to Dr. Vonderlehr made it possible for him to keep requesting supplies to keep the study up and running (Brandt, n.d.). His fears were that the experiment could fail if no treatment was offered. This is among the most prohibited and illegal unethical conduct since it means that the patient receiving ineffective drugs will eventually die as a result of the complications brought about by the advancement of the illness.
  •  The USPHS knowingly planned the murder of the test subjects. A letter written by Vonderlehr to Clark and Wenger stated that by the end of the study there would be a high volume of syphilis cases. Additionally, he confessed that the mercury ointment is no treatment at all in any therapy. He ironically stated that after a period of 5-10 years numerous ‘interesting’ complications of untreated syphilis would be seen (Brandt, n.d.). Wenger said that the USPHS has no other use for the patients till they die. From the start of the study, their only goal was to conduct post mortems after the subjects die. This not only unethical but cruel and illegal.
  • In course of the experimental treatment, the USPHS ensured that the subjects were never to seek medical help in any other facility in the area. Vonderlehr went ahead to meet all local black physicians to ask for their collaboration in ensuring they never treat the men (Brandt, n.d.). List containing the subjects’ names were distributed to every Macon County doctor to at all times refer the named men to USPHS for treatment if they ever sought treatment. Additionally the USHPS threatened the Alabama Health Department towards attempting to carry out treatment for test subjects when the department’s mobile VD unit visited Tuskegee  .

References

Brandt, A. (n.d.). Racism and Research: The Case of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study. Retrieved from http://www.med.navy.mil/bumed/Documents/Healthcare%20Ethics/Racism-And-Research.pdf

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