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The Tuskegee experiment scandal can be described as gruesome, inhumane and highly abusive. It is still seen as one of the neo-colonial acts of barbarism. Therefore, it should be condemned by all terms and means and never should be it allowed to happen again. The changing of the American laws to protect human beings against such heinous acts is one of the steps that should be undertaken to be in line with the modern times. The professional line of ethics should be jealously and highly guarded to ensure all humans, irrespective of their gender and origin, are protected and their dignity upheld. The actions do not only show the project leaders’ attitude towards people of African origin, but also portray how serious uncontrolled professionalism can try to eliminate the minority in the society. The whole project, if not well managed and the consequences handled accordingly, would go a long way to build racial tensions. The role of the media in exposing the societal vices is also highly regarded in this case as evaluations show that due to the media findings the project was permanently halted. The exposure led to change of laws protecting individuals involved in clinical experiments.
In the year 1932, a group headed by Dr.Taliafero Clark was formed at a venereal disease centre. The main purpose of the group was to observe black men, infected with a venereal disease, syphilis, for a period of between 6-9 months and determine, amongst other factors, the impact of the disease on their social life. It was stated that after finishing the experiment, the men would be treated of the disease with penicillin, which was the accredited cure at that time. However, the group members could not agree on the best way to carry out the particular procedure. The head of the group, Dr. Taliafero, was for the ethical procedure where the individuals were to be informed and treated properly. However, other group members wanted the experiment conducted without the knowledge of the victims and later they would be left to die of the disease. The group leader was against this and retired a year later due to the expanding differences. Dr Clark, during his tenure as the head of the group, was able to outsource the services of the Tuskegee Institute, and to perform an experiment in a black college in Alabama (Wimmer & Dominick 2010). The college and its staff were later to be mentioned participating in the infamous, illegal and inhumane activity. However, the staff were as innocent as the victims, as they were mostly deceived to believing that the experiment was held for the benefits of the Afro-Americans. The college, acting under false facts and information, leased its facilities to the government for the research, unaware of the impacts and consequences the whole activity would have on its image.
The victims of the Tuskegee experiment all derived from the Black-American community. The men selected for the experiment were those suffering from syphilis. They were mostly poor and, thus, were easily convinced by the offer of free medical checkups, free meals and burial insurance policy. The experimenting doctors were mainly from the National Health Centre. They were duly supported by members of staff from the Tuskegee College in Alabama. Dr. Taliaferro Clark is viewed as the founder of the study, as he headed the group credited with carrying out the study. Others involved Dr. Eugene Dibble, who headed the John Andrew Hospital and who was also made to believe that the study was meant to benefit the Black Americans. Dr. Oliver C. Wenger and his staff at the Venereal Disease Control Centre were in charge of setting the research procedures. Dr Oliver understood all the facts about the study, but he decided to keep them secret (Rever 2009). The Afro-American Nurse Rivers played one of the biggest roles during the forty years the experiment was running. She knew the participants better and had personal attachments with the victims. These allowed her get all relevant information concerning the victims and win their trust. She was unaware of the activity’s illegality. Her strongest advocate in the participation was Dr. Vonderlehr. He was the on-site director of the research and was directly concerned with making up the follow up of the victims. Other staff members at the Tuskegee institute were widely involved without their fair knowledge. They believed that whatever they were doing was going to change the lives of the victims.
The government was widely involved in funding the dirty project in which the negative outcomes significantly outweighed the benefits. The government, in general, knew of the intentions and procedures of the study, so did the state department of health and disease control.
The study involved people infected with syphilis. The experiment was aimed at determining the effects of syphilis on human beings and how long it would take an individual to degenerate from the disease. Because of this interest the health officials and physicians left the sick men untreated. As stated by one doctor involved in the experiment, they had no intention of treating the men. The study was further aimed at determining the different effects the disease had on Black Americans as compared to the white people. This was driven by the theory stating that the whites experienced neurological complications while the blacks succumbed to cardiovascular complications (Rubin & Babbie 2010). The authenticity of the statement cannot be measured, and the purpose of the study cannot be pointed out either. The fact that the men were denied access to treatment and also locked out of campaigns to eradicate sexually transmitted infections makes the purpose of the study queer and questionable. The involvement of the government complicates the issue even more. Thus, the facts aligned may make one believe that the government had the intention and hidden motive to eradicate the African American population. To most Black Americans and men of clear mind and standing ration, the whole thing was put forward as a tactics of racial war and supremacy.
The Tuskegee Experiments were associated with the deaths of hundreds of men used as guinea pigs. The disease spread as the victims infected their wives, children and sexual partners. The death of individuals caused pain, suffering and anguish to their relatives. Medical reports prove that 28 patients died directly of syphilis, 100 of complications such as heart problems, tumors and others. The reports further indicate that 40 women, who were wives to some of the victims, had been infected. 19 children are said to be born with complications related to syphilis. The reputation of the government and that of the Disease Control Center was ruined, and the public lost trust in these institutions. The public pressure on the government led to the American President, Bill Clinton, apologizing to the public in 1997. In his apology, he regretted the government involvement and promised changes to avoid such actions in the future (Rubin & Babbie 2010). However, only seven survivors, led by Charlie Pollard, had the chance to witness the historic day. The law suits against the experimenting doctors and the federal government supporters resulted in awarding of $ 10 million to the surviving families. The lawsuit was filed by Fred Gray on behalf of the victims.
The case further brought the Black Americans to believing that the American government had created HIV/AIDS in its bid to eradicate their population. The statements may be untrue and irrational. However, by analyzing the Tuskegee issue, it would make one possibly believe in the theory, widespread among African Americans. Factors like this have made the Black Americans phobic to the American hospitals, viewing them as death dens rather than curative centers (American Society for Clinical Nutrition 1983). The discovery of the evils also led to the amendment of the law to protect humans involved in clinical experiments. It also brought to light the extent and the grave consequences of racism in America.
Impacts on Future Research
The Tuskegee Experiment was to affect several other experiments in future. The experiments affected were both in and outside the United States of America. They involved syphilis and other diseases. The integrity and ethical standards of the researches were questioned in relation to the Tuskegee occurrence. The Americans funded research in Africa and the Dominican Republic, which showed better examples outside the United States, while the HIV/AIDS research was one highly affected by the outcomes in the US. The people involved questioned the ethical standards of the experiments. It was not easy convincing them that it was purely for their benefits and not a repetition of the Tuskegee case. The population of African originwas far keener to involve themselves in any experiments and influenced others not to accept any offers from the US government. They were almost sure that the government’s goal was to eliminate their population. However, the experiments were not of the same kind as the Tuskegee one but were intended to have positive impacts on the involved population (Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology and HighWire Press 1990).
Opinion on the Tuskegee Experiments
The fact that the researchers understood the consequences of the experiments on humans is enough to condemn their actions. The involvement of the government and its institutions in the program, aimed at harming the citizens, is highly unethical and unexpected. Thus, the government should go ahead and bring all those who were involved in the inhuman, criminal acts to justice. The government should do this by confiscating their property and use it to compensate the victims and their dependants. The law should be further amended to ensure that any professional physician, who knowingly or unknowingly uses human beings as laboratory mice to carry out clinical experiments without their consent, faces dire consequences. This should be extended to any institutions of government officials who engage in such activities. The government should arise and educate the citizens on any ongoing medical trials and their consequences. The humans participating in any experiment should be first educated and informed on all the processes to be engaged in the whole process. It should also be noted that the media ended these inhumane actions. Therefore, people should implement advanced press freedom into existence. The people should combine efforts to ensure that the media remains free and totally independent. The racial approach of the whole menace is also something of serious concern. It shows that racism is still present in the American society years after declaring independence. It also shows the laxity of the government on this sensitive issue especially brightly proved by its participation and delayed apology. Thus, the government should be widely blamed and made to face responsibility and eradicate the consequences of the Tuskegee experiments. The American people, irrespective of their race, should hold hands and work towards improving their lives. “Whites for the blacks, blacks for whites and all for the universe” ( Olson 2009).
It is evident that whatever happened during the Tuskegee Experiment was illegal and inhumane, and its designers had evil motives. It proves irrelevant and cruel to use a human being of one race for the improvement of the other races’ lives. It is also morally wrong to use a trusted institution of learning for criminal activities. The Tuskegee Experiment saga brings out the government failures to protect human rights and failure to honor its promise to uphold the constitution, which protects all human rights. The study carried out can be conclusively and immensely described as unimportant, considering that it was harmful to the victims. It can rather be termed as something headed for the holocaust or genocide. The fact that it involved those trusted with protecting lives makes it more gruesome and horrible. The government, learning institutions and individuals should learn from this and be more cautious when involving themselves in any research concerning health. Firstly, such a study should be analyzed to determine its impacts on the society before finally authorizing it to be carried out. Thus, the American government is obliged to put up a campaign to re-establish the faith of African Americans in the American hospitals.