Some 700 prisoners, soldiers, mental patients and orphans are seeking monetary compensation for numerous health problems stemming from the syphilis bacteria subjected on them by U.S. researchers.
Hundreds of Guatemalans subjected to experiments with syphilis by the United States in the 40’s, have filed a lawsuit in Washington against the US government; the collective lawsuit, according to the legal firms representing them (Conrad And Sherer and Parker, Waichman and Alonso) was filed after the U.S. failed to establish a settlement process outside of the courts.
According to judicial documents, between 1948 and 1964, American scientists persuaded prison and orphanage authorities in Guatemala, to allow them to deliberately infect hundreds of Guatemalans with syphilis in order to test the efficacy of penicillin, in exchange for medical equipment like refrigerators, and medication to treat epilepsy and malaria.
Only a few Guatemalans were informed they were being studied and infected; reportedly in some cases, doctors “paid” their “subjects” with cigarettes. Several prisoners were infected by prostitutes working with American scientists.
The lawsuit compares the Guatemalan case with the 1930s Tuskegee syphilis experiments in Alabama, where hundreds of African Americans were observed for about 40 years, without being told they had been infected. The same Public Health Service doctors from the Tuskegee case would have initially supervised the Guatemalan experiments, according to Piper Hendricks of Conrad & Scherer.
“If there was any question, which I don’t think there was, as to whether nonconsensual human medical experimentation was acceptable, [the] Nuremberg [Trials] answered that loud and clear. And here we were across the ocean continuing this type of experimentation,” says Hendricks.