Tuskegee Project

In 1932, the Public Health Service alongside with the Tuskegee Institute, initiated a study relating with syphilis; specifically experimenting if it effected African Americans differently than European Americans. The theory to conduct this experiment was to see if syphilis in the whites experienced more neurological complications whereas blacks were more prone to cardiovascular damage (“The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment”). The experiment involved a total of 600 black males which 399 of them had syphilis and 201 did not have syphilis.

These uneducated black males were from the poorest counties in Alabama and was never informed what kind of disease they were suffering from. The only information they received was that they were being treated for “bad blood”. In exchange for participating in the study, the men received free medical exams, free meals, and burial insurance. (National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention) The white male doctors along with a skilled, African American PHS nurse assigned to monitor them, Eunice Rivers, had no motive to help cure the disease that these men had.

Eunice Rivers gained the trust of these African American males very quickly and dealt with their problems; which also gave her the respect from the physicians. Their intentions were only to collect the data needed from their autopsies. This research lasted 40 years which in the process of gathering their data, a majority of the participants had died; some from the disease and some because of complications. Not only did those males die but 40 of the males also infected their wives which then infected 19 of their children with congenital syphilis.

Syphilis is a disease spread during sexual intercourse and can also be passed from mother to child during pregnancy. It’s caused by Treponema pallidum, which is a bacterium that’s shaped like a corkscrew called spirochete. This organism lives in many organs of the body that causes sores or ulcers called chancres or syphilis sore. These sores usually appear on the skin of the penis, vagina, mouth and sometimes in the rectum, on the tongue, lips, or breast. During sex the bacteria leaves the sores of one person and enters the moist membranes of their partner’s penis, vagina, mouth, or rectum.

Many people infected with syphilis don’t show any symptoms of this disease for years, but they continue to be at risk for late complications if not treated. When it comes to pregnant women, they pass this disease to their babies by the placenta. The primary stage of syphilis is when there’s an appearance of a single sore or chancre; which may also be multiple sores too. The average symptoms for this stage last about 21 days. The chancre usually looks firm, round, small, and painless.

Chancre can last from three to six weeks and can heal without treatment which is why this disease is called “the great imitator” because the signs and symptoms are faint compared to other diseases. If the primary syphilis is not treated it can progress to the secondary stage. Secondary syphilis is characterized by skin rash and mucous membrane lesions. The rash usually doesn’t cause itching; it may appear reddish brown spots both on the palms of the hands and the bottom of the feet. The rashes can appear on other parts of the body too.

Some of the symptoms of the secondary syphilis is fever, swollen lymph glands, sore throat, patchy hair loss, headaches, weight loss, muscle aches, and exhaustion. This stage will resolve with or without treatment, but without treatment, the infection will progress to the latent and possibly late stages of the disease. Latent stage, also known as the “hidden stage”, begins when primary and secondary symptoms disappear. (“Sexually Transmitted Disease STD”) Without treatment the person with remain to have the disease even though there are no signs or symptoms.

The latent stage can last for years. Tertiary syphilis can progress in about 15 percent of people who haven’t been treated for syphilis, and can appear 10 to 20 years after infection was first acquired. In the late stages of syphilis, the disease can start damaging the internal organs such as the brain, nerves, eyes, heart, blood vessels, liver, bones, and joints. Signs and symptoms of this stage include paralysis, numbness, gradual blindness, dementia, and difficulty coordinating muscle movements.

This stage is serious enough to cause death in some people who have not yet sought treatment. Congenital syphilis is when it’s passed from the pregnant mother to her baby through the placenta. An infected baby may be born without any signs or symptoms of the disease, but if left untreated the baby can develop serious problems within a few weeks. If babies are left untreated it can lead to the baby developing seizures or die. Ways to identify this disease is by examining the serum from a chancre using a dark-field microscope.

If syphilis is present in a chancre, it will show up in the microscope the 8 to 14 coils counted. Another way to diagnose syphilis is the rapid plasmin reagent. It’s a non-specific test, which we’re looking for reagin-type antibodies and those antibodies are produced in response to lipids the body makes and an unintended reaction to the spirochete. I personal think that the Tuskegee project was immoral and extremely wrong. They used human beings as laboratory animals, which is against all ethical rules.

It’s upsettingly surprising that this experiment was originally supposed to last for six months, yet it went on for 40 years (“The Tuskegee Timeline”). It becomes even worse when this experiment is specifically tested on a certain race that had many disadvantages in their lives which made them vulnerable and easy to manipulate. The doctors lied to these uneducated men, who almost none of them had ever seen a doctor before, and used the free medical care as a pawn to lure them into the experiment (“The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment”).

They never mentioned anything about the doctors treating them of syphilis but tricked them that they’re being tested for “bad blood”. The infected men were purposely deprived of the drug even when they found that penicillin was a cure for syphilis. It was stated that the government was aware of this experiment yet did nothing; and that the government only ended the experiment under the glare of publicity (“The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment”). Works Cited: “The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment. ” Editorial.

Issues of Diversity [New York] 1993: n. pag. Infoplease. Infoplease. Web. 07 Apr. 2013. Fourtner, A. W. , C. R. Fourtner, and C. F. Herreid. “”Bad Blood”: A Case Study of the Tuskegee Syphilis Project. ” Web log post. “Bad Blood”: A Case Study of the Tuskegee Syphilis Project. Pilosophy, n. d. Web. 07 Apr. 2013. “U. S. Public Health Service Syphilis Study at Tuskegee. ” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 15 June 2011. Web. 07 Apr. 2013.

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