U.S. Public Health Service STD Experiments in Guatemala (1946–1948) and Their Aftermath

Kayte Spector-Bagdady, Paul A. Lombardo

Abstract

The U.S. Public Health Service’s sexually transmitted disease (STD) experiments in Guatemala are an important case study not only in human subjects research transgressions but also in the response to serious lapses in research ethics. This case study describes how individuals in the STD experiments were tested, exposed to STDs, and exploited as the source of biological specimens—all without informed consent and often with active deceit. It also explores and evaluates governmental and professional responses that followed the public revelation of these experiments, including by academic institutions, professional organizations, and the U.S. federal government, pushing us to reconsider both how we prevent such lapses in the future and how we respond when they are first revealed.


SpectorBagdady K, Lombardo PA. U.S. Public Health Service STD Experiments in Guatemala (1946–1948) and Their Aftermath. Ethics & Human Research. 2019 Apr; 41(2): 29-34.

Germany to probe Nazi-era medical science

Science

Megan Gannon

Soon after Hans-Joachim was born, it was clear that something was terribly wrong. The infant boy suffered from partial paralysis and spastic diplegia, a form of cerebral palsy. In 1934, when he was 5 years old, his parents admitted him to an asylum in Potsdam, Germany, where clinical records described Hans-Joachim as a “strikingly friendly and cheerful” child. But his condition did not improve. He spent a few years at a clinic in Brandenburg-Görden, Germany, and then, on an early spring day in 1941, he was “transfered to another asylum at the instigation of the commissar for defense of the Reich”—code words meaning that Hans-Joachim, then 12, was gassed at a Nazi “euthanasia” center. His brain was sent to a leading neuropathologist. . .  [Full text]

 

The forgotten Australian prisoners of war experimented on by the Nazis

Australian Broadcasting Corporation

The Body Sphere

Amanda Smith

Not all Nazi human experimentations ended with death. Some Australian soldiers may have suffered for years after being guinea pigs for Nazi scientists. Amanda Smith tells their story.

Some of the cruellest, vilest things humans do to each other are done in wartime.

During the Second World War, one of the most shocking things that occurred – in a long list of shocking things – was human medical experimentation in Nazi concentration camps.

Until now, however, it wasn’t known that the Nazis also experimented on Australian POWs.

Konrad Kwiet is the resident historian at the Sydney Jewish Museum. He’s researching the experiments alongside surgeon and academic George Weisz. . . [Full text]

 

Austrian historians studying another informed consent debacle from the 50s

Bioedge

Michael Cook

There seems to be an unending trickle of revelations from the 1950s and 1960s about the practices of doctors who still had not learned the Nuremberg Code. The latest comes from Vienna, Austria, where researchers deliberately infected hospitalised children with malaria in the hope of finding a cure for syphilis.

An historical commission began studying the issue in 2012. It appears that between 1955 and 1960 about 230 orphaned children at the Hoff Clinic, at the Vienna University Clinic for Psychiatry and Neurology, were experimented on without their consent. Afterwards the injection the children had high fevers for two weeks and for another 20 years experienced intermittent fevers. No one appears to have died from the treatment. A complete report will be submitted next year.

Malaria therapy for syphilis may sound peculiar, but in 1927, in the days before antibiotics, Austrian psychiatrist Julius Wagner-Jauregg received a Nobel Prize in Medicine for refining the technique. He and others observed that high fevers killed the malaria parasite. This saved the patient from general paralysis and “idiocy”, but left him with fevers. However, these could be treated with quinine, so the risk seemed acceptable.


This article is published by Michael Cook and BioEdge.org under a Creative Commons licence. You may republish it or translate it free of charge with attribution for non-commercial purposes following these guidelines. If you teach at a university we ask that your department make a donation to Bioedge. Commercial media must contact us for permission and fees. Some articles on this site are published under different terms.

Complicity after the fact

Moral blindness becomes a virtue and necessity

US scientists were “accomplices after the fact” in Japanese doctors’ war crimes

Bioedge

Michael Cook*

All of contemporary bioethics springs from the Nuremberg Doctors Trial in 1947. Seven Nazi doctors and officials were hanged and nine received severe prison sentences for performing experiments on an estimated 25,000 prisoners in concentration camps without their consent. Only about 1,200 died but many were maimed and psychologically scarred.

So what did the US do to the hundreds of Japanese medical personnel who experimented on Chinese civilians and prisoners of war of many nationalities, including Chinese, Koreans, Russians, Australians, and Americans? They killed an estimated 3,000 people in the infamous Unit 731 in Harbin, in northeastern China before and during World War II – plus tens of thousands of civilians when they field-tested germ warfare. Many of the doctors were academics from Japan’s leading medical schools.
Full Text

 

Vivisectionist recalls his day of reckoning

Doctor put conscience on hold until war atrocity confession time came

The Japan Times

Jun Hongo

Donning the crisp, Imperial Japanese Army khakis gave Ken Yuasa a sense of power, as a superior being on a mission to liberate China from Western colonialism.

“The uniform made me feel incredibly sharp. Once I put it on, I was convinced Japan would triumph,” recalled the wartime surgeon, who was deployed to Changzhi (then Luan) in Shanxi Province in February 1942.

His fervor, and the nationalist indoctrination of his schooling, quickly subordinated any sense of conscience. By his second month at Luan’s army hospital, Yuasa was aggressively performing vivisections on live Chinese prisoners, and diverting dysentery and typhoid bacillus to Japanese troops for use in biological warfare.

“I was in denial of the things I did in Luan until the war was over. It was because I had no sense of remorse while I was doing it,” Yuasa, 90, told The Japan Times in a recent interview.

“We believed that the orders from the top were absolute. We performed the vivisections as ordered. We erased any sense of culpability by doing so, even though what we did was horrendous.” [Full text]