Jun 9, 2011

Guatemala medical experiments 1946 - 1948


---------- Forwarded message ----------

From: Manuel Sotil <>
Date: Thu, Jun 9, 2011 at 8:26 AM
Subject: Guatemala medical experiments 1946 - 1948
To: ReporterNotebook <>

In 1946 after saving the world, enough brave US soldiers were returning home  with syphilis and other venereal diseases to alarm the establishment and not because of prudery issues.

This was, coincidentally, a time when the US and its allies were busy passing judgement at Nuremberg on the vanquished.

It was decided to try a new drug that had been developed for the treatment of infectious diseases: penicillin.

But before it could be tried on the ailing war heroes, it first had to be tested.

What followed would have surpassed anything created by even the most vivid imagination of prosecutors and witnesses at Nuremberg.

It would have made the lamp shade business look like a kindergarten project in comparison.

For some reason, the poor, backward country of Guatemala was chosen to supply test subjects.

With the inducement of money (bribes?), equipment and assorted trinkets, some institutions of the impoverished feudal country were enlisted for the project.

Subjects came from prisons, the military (conscript soldiers) and prostitutes. Even the Sisters of Charity did their patriotic bit by supplying young orphans.

First they tried infecting healthy males by having them have sexual intercourse with prostitutes who were already infected with syphilis. Not happy with the rate of infections thus obtained (inefficient), more direct methods of infection were tried including injections.

By 1948, having obtained the sought after information, the US dropped the experiment. It accounted for 87% of the subjects, a number of whom were not treated successfully (left infected). The other 13% remained unaccounted and presumably still infected.

The US chose not to publicize this triumph of scientific research. Instead, this particular experiment was discovered by accident, by a researcher looking for further information on the Tuskegee experiment, in that rural poor from Alabama (blacks) already suffering from syphilis, were offered treatment with a new drugs (penicillin). But since any good experiment requires A-B test groups, many of them were given placebos instead of the real drug, therefore remaining without any treatment but thinking that they had been helped.

The US medical establishment must have asked some questions about these experiments for in 1947 John C. Cutler, MD, who led the Guatemala team, acknowledged ethical violations in a 1947 letter, saying: 

"Unless the law winks occasionally, you have no progress in medicine."

His supervisor, RC Arnold, urged discretion. "If some goody organisation got wind of the work there would be a lot of smoke." In the end the study yielded no useful information and was buried.

Or put another way: Omelettes are not made without breaking eggs (and variations - attributed to Robespierre, Lenin and other worthies)

Lets we get too concerned about culpability issues, I am please to report that both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have called their Guatemalan counterparts to say "sorry".

Manuel Sotil


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