The Tuskeee Study: Radically Changed the Views and Practice of Medicine and Ethics

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The Tuskegee Study has radically changed the views and practice of medicine and ethics. The 40 year long study impacted 600 African American men and their families. It began as a scientific investigation of syphilis as it affected black men. Back in the 1930’s, it was thought to be true that black men were genetically different from white men and that black men’s bodies reacted differently to syphilis. The goal was to see what would happen to the men who had syphilis if they were left untreated (CDC, 2009). Not only did this study affect those directly involved, but also future generations as well. Many things let this highly unethical study continue for way too long. With the end of slavery not far off from the start of The Tuskegee…show more content…
The fact that this study was to uncover the outcome of syphilis, justified that it was harming many individuals because it would later benefit America as a whole. Just because it was socially acceptable at the time, does not give them the right to conduct this study. There are ways that they could have run a similar study without violating the rights of the participants. For one, they could have designed the study that followed a universal code of ethics. During the course of the study, the Nuremberg Code was created and enforced (The Nuremberg Code, 1946, p.181). This document’s purpose is to set a standard to which all human beings should be treated during experimentation. The Tuskegee Study violated all of the points of conduct. For example, the first goal that must be addressed is “The voluntary consent of the human subject is absolutely essential” (The Nuremberg Code, 1946, p.181). The Tuskegee participants were not told by the scientist the full reason why they were needed, nor were they told what was going to be studied. The consent must be informed, and they clearly were not. Another issue in the Nuremberg Code is “The experiment should be so conducted as to avoid all unnecessary physical and mental suffering and injury” (The Nuremberg Code, 1946, p.182). During the study, the knowledge of penicillin curing syphilis came to be, and yet none of the
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