In the 1940s, the U.S. Public Health Service conducted research on sexually transmitted diseases in Guatemala involving the intentional infection of vulnerable human populations, but since making this discovery, the Obama administration has stated that those exposed cannot sue the U.S.
From 1946 to 1948, researchers with the PHS conducted experiments on Guatemalan prostitutes, prisoners, mental patients and soldiers, exposing them to STDs to test penicillin’s effectiveness.
Records of these test were hidden until a medical historian at Wellesley College uncovered in 2009.
Since the discovery, President Obama, Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton, and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius have apologized for the experiments. However, earlier this week, the federal government stated that according to the Federal Tort Reform Claims Act, the U.S. is protected from lawsuits filed in response to injuries suffered in a foreign countries even if the injuries were cause by acts planned in the U.S.
Furious Guatemalans and their advocates say that citing the FTC Act negates any apologies expressed.
An attorney for the would-be plaintiffs Terrence Collingsworth released a statement saying, “We will continue to vigorously fight for the rights of the Guatemalans wronged in this matter to obtain a remedy for the harms done by U.S. officials, but we remain open to the United States deciding to do the right thing, consistent with long-established human rights law and basic morality.”