Commission Investigates Guatemala STD Study
A presidential commission has determined that the United States knowingly breached medical ethics when conducting the Guatemala STD studies in the 1940s. The studies, which were funded by the U.S. government, involved infecting people in Guatemala with sexually transmitted diseases in order to test the effectiveness of penicillin. The Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues investigated the Guatemala study in October 2010 and found that the subjects involved in the study were not aware of risks and did not give informed consent.
About the Studies
The U.S. Public Health Service and the Pan American Sanitary Bureau worked with several Guatemalan government agencies to do medical research to see if penicillin could prevent venereal infections.
- 1,300 people were exposed to syphilis, gonorrhea, or chancroid.
- Only about 700 of those infected received some sort of treatment.
- 83 people died (it is not known if the deaths were directly due to the experiments.)
- Those infected included soldiers, prostitutes, prisoners and mental patients.
Examples of Experiments
- Seven women with epilepsy were injected with syphilis below the back of the skull- the women each got bacterial meningitis.
- A female syphilis patient with a terminal illness was infected with gonorrhea in her eyes and elsewhere on her body- she died six months later.
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