Wednesday, 6 October 2010


Breaking news, nbc exclusive, frankly a stunning disclosure from the federal government about medical experiments. the u.s. conducted on unknowing patients back in the 1940s. today officials at the very highest levels of government will apologize. robert bazzell is nbc's chief science correspondent. good morning.

>> good morning. the officials that will do the apologizing including secretary of state liquiditien and sebelius. from 1946 to 1948, officials with the u.s. public health service injected gonorrhea and syphilis as part every an experiment in people in guatemala without their permission or consent. these people included people in mental institutions, included prostitutes set loose in prison in an attempt to see how the organisms would spread, all part of an effort to learn more about venereal disease. the records were hidden for many years unless a historic at wesleyan found out about them. we'll hear more about t. but a lot of apologizing all the way around.

>> so bob, this professor found out about it, and presumably brought it to the attention of the u.s. government?

>> she brought it to the attention of the u.s. government. she was studying, and has written extensively about the tuesday ka heee expert on syphilis on african-merican men. this raises comparisons with that horrible incident where from 1932 until press reports revealed it was going on in 1972, u.s. government doctors were telling these african-american men that they were treating them for syphilis when in fact they were withholding treatment. this is a very similar event, though it occurred in guatemala. there will be a lot of apologizing to the nation of guatemala and his spain residents of the united states.

>> good the guatemalan government have any suspicion about this?

>> i think at that time they were fully cooperative, chuck. don't forget there was a lot of politics between guatemala and the united states in that time. 1954, the cia engineered a coup in guatemala.

>> they were hiding this as well?

>> they were hiding this as well. a lot of doctors and nurses were involved in this, but it was under the authority of doctors from the u.s. public health service who was in guatemala. the samples, for instance, of the syphilis organism were taken from a lab in staten island and flown from guatemala to be injected in people without their consent. robert bazzell with the breaks news. secretary sebelius will do a public apology today for experiments that happened back in the '40s. the u.s. government intentionally injecting guatemalans.

>> with cooperation from the guatemalan government. you also heard that secretary of state clinton will you issuing an apology.

LESTER HOLT, anchor: today from President Obama for something that happened more than 60 years ago. The US conducted secret medical experiments that involved the -- intentionally infecting Guatemalan mental patients with sexually transmitted diseases. Tonight Guatemala is calling it a crime against humanity and says it may take the case to an international court. NBC's chief science correspondent Robert Bazell broke the story this morning. He has this late update tonight.

ROBERT BAZELL reporting: The secret experiments took place in Guatemala between 1946 and 1948, financed by the US government and supervised by US government doctors. Susan Reverby, a professor at Wellesley College, who has studied medical malfeasance extensively, found the evidence in US government records.

Dr. SUSAN REVERBY: I thought that -- frankly, that I wouldn't get shocked but I thought this one was pretty horrific. The details of how they did it were pretty graphic. And I was actually quite surprised.

BAZELL: The doctors inoculated almost 700 prostitutes, institutionalized mental patients and prisoners with the germs that cause either syphilis or gonorrhea.
BAZELL: The subjects did not give their permission and were not told what was happening. They were injected in the skin, the genitals, even the spine. Infected female prostitutes were also sent into the prison and mental hospital to infect men.

Dr. REVERBY: They knew that this wasn't appropriate. The surgeon general even said we couldn't do this in the United States.

BAZELL: The experiments were designed to study the effects of penicillin on sexually transmitted disease. Still, as many as a third of the patients were not properly treated. Today, outrage on the streets of Guatemala's capital and in newspapers online, and from Guatemalan-Americans in Los Angeles.

Mr. RAFAEL CASTILLO (Guatemalan Unity Information Agency): Actually, I'm very surprise, upset. It's like a combination of feelings because it's been a long time already, but it's something outrageous, I would call it.

BAZELL: The incident recalls the infamous Tuskegee, Alabama, syphilis experiment.
nidentified Man: What is now called the Tuskegee experiment began here in 1932.

BAZELL: From 1932 until the research was revealed in the press in 1972, government doctors lied to hundreds of African-American men who were infected naturally. The doctors, some also involved in the Guatemala experiment, told the men they were getting treatment, but in fact they were not. Despite numerous apologies, that incident has left many black Americans weary of the medical establishment.

Dr. BILL RELEFORD (Health Educator): It still resonates after generations and generations. And people still talk about it. So this legacy of mistrust in the African-American community still exists.

BAZELL: Even though the Guatemala experiment took place more than 60 years ago, officials today call on the prestigious Institute of Medicine to launch a full investigation and identify steps to prevent further abuses. Another example of the most vulnerable being victimized and of doctors who ignore their pledge to first do no harm. Robert Bazell, NBC News, New York.

Prof. Susan M. Reverby website

A detailed report by Prof. Susan M. Reverby

Prof. Reverby quotes Thomas Rivers the famed Virologist in which he refers to the law winking when medical science is involved.

The ethics of our Health Departments need careful examination when it comes to Lyme Disease and the denial of Chronic Lyme Disease, methinks there has been too much winking going on over the last 30 years and not enough attention to all the available science.

Ken Liegner's letter to the Institute of Medicine likens the problems over Lyme disease to Tuskegee x 10000.

An earlier post here

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