Secretary Clinton & Secretary Sibelius Release Joint Statement on the Horrific Medical Experiments Carried Out in Guatemala
This is one of those stories that just makes your stomach turn in disgust. I applaud Secretary Clinton, Secretary Sibelius and Pres. Obama for issuing an apology on behalf of the U.S. Of course, no apology adequately confronts the total lack of humanity, ethics and morals of what was done in the the 1940’s but perhaps it can serve as a reminder that treating some people as inferior and less than human often results in gross violations of basic human rights. And remember, this was immediately following the revelations of the horrors of Dr. Mengele during the Holocaust.
What is interesting is that the Guatemalan government knew nothing about the experiments until Secretary Clinton called them Thursday night to apologize. This apparently preceded President Obama’s call to the Guatemalan President on Friday.
Joint Statement by Secretaries Clinton and Sebelius on a 1946-1948 Study
Following is a joint statement by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius on the U.S. Public Health Service Sexually Transmitted Disease Inoculation Study of 1946-1948:
The sexually transmitted disease inoculation study conducted from 1946-1948 in Guatemala was clearly unethical. Although these events occurred more than 64 years ago, we are outraged that such reprehensible research could have occurred under the guise of public health. We deeply regret that it happened, and we apologize to all the individuals who were affected by such abhorrent research practices. The conduct exhibited during the study does not represent the values of the United States, or our commitment to human dignity and great respect for the people of Guatemala. The study is a sad reminder that adequate human subject safeguards did not exist a half-century ago.
Today, the regulations that govern U.S.-funded human medical research prohibit these kinds of appalling violations. The United States is unwavering in our commitment to ensure that all human medical studies conducted today meet exacting U.S. and international legal and ethical standards. In the spirit of this commitment to ethical research, we are launching a thorough investigation into the specifics of this case from 1946. In addition, through the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues we are also convening a body of international experts to review and report on the most effective methods to ensure that all human medical research conducted around the globe today meets rigorous ethical standards.
The people of Guatemala are our close friends and neighbors in the Americas. Our countries partner together on a range of issues, and our people are bound together by shared values, commerce, and by the many Guatemalan Americans who enrich our country. As we move forward to better understand this appalling event, we reaffirm the importance of our relationship with Guatemala, and our respect for the Guatemalan people, as well as our commitment to the highest standards of ethics in medical research.
Here is more on the story:
American scientists deliberately infected prisoners and patients in a mental hospital in Guatemala with syphilis 60 years ago, a recently unearthed experiment that prompted U.S. officials to apologize Friday and declare outrage over “such reprehensible research.”
The discovery dredges up past wrongs in the name of science – like the infamous Tuskegee syphilis study in this country that has long dampened minority participation in medical research – and could complicate ongoing studies overseas that depend on cooperation from some of the world’s poorest countries to tackle tough-to-treat diseases.
Uncovering it gives “us all a chance to look at this and – even as we are appalled at what was done – to redouble our efforts to make sure something like this could never happen again,” said Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health.
The NIH-funded experiment, which ran from 1946 to 1948, was uncovered by a Wellesley College medical historian. It apparently was conducted to test if penicillin, then relatively new, could prevent some sexually transmitted infections. The study came up with no useful information and was hidden for decades.
“We are outraged that such reprehensible research could have occurred under the guise of public health,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Friday.
President Barack Obama called Guatemala’s president, Alvaro Colom, later Friday to apologize. Clinton had called to apologize the night before.
“Obviously this is shocking, it’s tragic, it’s reprehensible,” said White House press secretary Robert Gibbs. “It’s tragic and the U.S. by all means apologizes to all those who were impacted.”
Guatemalan Embassy official Fernando de la Cerda said his country hadn’t known anything about the experiment until Clinton called to apologize Thursday night…[emphasis added]