Thirty years have passed since the completion of Tuskegee Syphilis Study, however, the society is still horrified with the unethical treatment of minorities group under this study. Recently, President Bush has addressed the public with the speech in which he has apologized for the actions of medical professionals for shifting the health dangers to specific minority groups.
The Tuskegee Syphilis Study was conducted for forty years (1932-1972) with 400 poor and illiterate African Americans became part of it. This study has arisen many debates in society with the majority labeling it as unethical. First, the study was conducted without the proper care to its subjects and has resulted in the changes in how the patients are protected if they participated in medical researches. Second, not a single person has given an informed consent and was not informed about the diagnosis. These people who have agreed to participate were told that they have bad blood and are able to receive the free treatment (Gray, 1998).
It is hardly possible for the similar situation to occur today because the research participants are not only protected by ethics, but by the law as well. Not a single study will start if the participants have not given the informed consent and are aware about all possible outcomes and side effects of acquired disease and treatment procedure. Of course, it is not always possible to predict all possible effects of the tested treatments and their impact on the human body (the medical research is conducted in the struggle to find out the more effective treatment), however, it is possible to predict some of the effects and the participants should be informed about them.
The Tuskegee Syphilis Study was the continuation of the Oslo Study (1928) with the only difference that Oslo study was retrospective - the health professionals have studied the patients who have already contracted syphilis and remained untreated for some time, while under Tuskegee study was prospective - the health professionals could observe and study the patients (nothing could be done therapeutically). Eventually the study has become the longest experiment on human beings in the medical history in the result of which 74 individuals have remained alive, 28 males have died directly because of syphilis, 100 died because of complications, 40 wives have been infected and 19 children were born with syphilis (Jones, 1993). It is obvious that the initial goal to benefit the society was not accomplished and the primary objective of all health professionals - do not harm - has been rudely violated. Dozens of healthy people have been infected intentionally and the harm made to their health and future lives cannot be underestimated.
In the further investigation of the conducted research, many interesting details have become known to public. For example, in order to ensure that the patients will show up for the expected diagnosis, all of them have received the misleading letter promising the special free treatment. In addition, all of the participants had to undergo autopsy after death even though nothing was said about this requirement in the beginning. As the result, many of the patients did not receive the treatment they needed - health professionals just observed the fatal progression of the diseases - in other words, doctors observed whether their patients