Foundations | Evil Science

Few events signify science gone awry more than the Tuskegee experiments. Started in 1932 to study the effects of untreated syphilis in 399 black men, the scientific rationale for the work became inconsequential by the late 1930s, when it was proven that the symptoms could be treated with heavy-metal therapy. Yet bureaucratic inertia compelled its continuation. In 1943, the morally questionable descended to the intentionally harmful when a US assistant surgeon general requested that the Mississippi draft board not draft study participants, as army enlistment brought with it the automatic treatment of syphilis. "The legacy of Tuskegee is that the drive to minimize the humanity of test subjects should always be checked at every level of the healthcare system," says Stephen Thomas, director of the Center for Minority Health at the University of Pittsburgh's Graduate School of Public Health.

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