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Posted at 6:00 AM ET, 05/ 9/2008

The Tuskegee Experiment, Part II

By Michael Dobbs


Rosie O'Donnell

"The government did give syphilis to black Americans for 40 years. What [Rev. Jeremiah Wright] was saying is in his history, in his genetic memory, he knows what it's like for the government to infect his own people. Because he lived through those Tuskegee experiments."
--Rosie O'Donnell, May 5, NBC Today Show.

Some myths are practically impossible to eradicate, particularly when they are repeated by trusted public figures. Long before the Rev. Jeremiah Wright talked about the U.S. government using the AIDS virus as a means of genocide against African-Americans, prominent commentators made equally fallacious assertions about the Tuskegee syphilis study. The list of people claiming that the government deliberately infected African-Americans with syphilis includes Wright, Tom Brokaw, Peter Jennings--and now Rosie O'Donnell.

The Facts

As outlined in a previous post , the Tuskegee study involved a group of 399 black men suffering from syphilis, who were part of a study by the Public Health Service between 1932 and 1972. The men were told that they had "bad blood," and were not treated for syphilis, even after penicillin became widely available in 1947.

Everybody agrees that the failure to inform the men of their options, and offer treatment by penicillin, was a deplorable breach of medical ethics. But it is not true to say that the government deliberately infected the men in the study with syphilis.

"The men were not infected by the public health service," said Susan Reverby, a Wellesley professor who is writing a book about the Tuskegee experiment. "That is completely wrong. It is a myth that circulates everywhere in the culture, from the highest to the lowest."

Among those responsible for spreading the myth are TV anchors like Tom Brokaw who said on the nightly news that black men "were infected, without their knowledge, and then went untreated for years while the government studied the effects of the disease." Brokaw was introducing a report on the Tuskegee experiment on April 8, 1997, to coincide with a public apology by President Clinton.

Whether or not the participants in the Tuskegee study infected others is extremely controversial. In my previous post, I noted that "by some accounts, the infected men passed on syphilis to 40 wives and 19 children." Although these figures have been widely repeated, they are far from authoritative.

"We do not know where these figures come from," said Cynthia Wilson, an archivist at the Bioethics Center at Tuskegee University, who has been collecting documentation on the experiment.

According to Reverby, the participants in the study were chosen because they were supposedly in a latent, non-infectious stage of syphilis, unable to transmit the disease to others. Even if they were infectious, they would have ceased being infectious within a couple of years.

After the study was terminated in 1972, because of the public outcry, the government agreed to provide lifetime medical benefits to 22 wives, 17 children, and 2 grandchildren found to be infected with syphilis. (New York Times, May 9, 1997.) How the women and children were infected remains unknown. Family members won an out-of-court settlement worth $10 million.

The Pinocchio Test

There are many myths surrounding the Tuskegee experiment, notably the claim that the government deliberately infected African-Americans with syphilis. Rosie O'Donnell is way off the mark when she claims that the government "gave syphilis" to African-Americans for a period of 40 years.

(About our rating scale.)


By Michael Dobbs  | May 9, 2008; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  3 Pinocchios, Health, History, MSM Watch  
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Comments

WHAT A STUPID ARTICLE! "We didn't GIVE them syphilis; they already had it. We just watched them die of it- and took careful notes - when a little penicillin could have cured it."

These people were actually murdered in the lowest NAZI CONCENTRATION CAMP kind of EXPERIMENT. To focus on the relatively trivial detail that they were already infected (duh! that's why people go to doctors - to get cured!) and then to tag it with "The myth that will not die" when in fact it is THE HORROR STORY that everyone should know... this is just cheap deception.

Who will check the fact checkers? I give this story the Joseph Mengele thousand Pinocchio award.

Posted by: davidword | May 9, 2008 7:13 AM | Report abuse

davidword: This is how wars are started, how hatred grows. What the govt did was deplorable - the article says that. to say that the govt infected them is to fan the flames of division. At some point, people have to stop spreading that which is false, and focus on what the facts are.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 9, 2008 7:25 AM | Report abuse

I think the fact checker misses the point; the reality is if the US government did exactly what it admits to doing with the Tuskegee Experiment with AIDS in the black community, whatever trust black people or most Americans have in their government would be shattered. And less importantly, before the government was forced to come clean about the Tuskegee experiments, if black people had raised questions about the medical community treating blacks as subhuman, it would have been dismissed as conspiracy theories like Jeremiah Wright's assertion about AIDS. In truth, there is a lot that is unknown or unverifiable about the Tuskegee Experiments and whether the men were infected or just untreated is one of the oldest and least documented "facts", so it still gives reasonable credence to the belief that agents of the US government are capable of anything!

Posted by: RCD | May 9, 2008 7:27 AM | Report abuse

The government didn't give smallpox infected blankets to the Indians either. The government didn't supply Iraq with chemical weapons either. The government didn't refuse to outlaw lynching either. The government didn't allow filthy conditions for injured war vets. The government didn't shoot student protesters to death. The government doesn't spy on Americans without a warrant. The government doesn't torture. The list of "facts" goes on and on.

Posted by: hammerdown | May 9, 2008 7:39 AM | Report abuse

How can you state whether or not the subjects were deliberately infected without first hand knowledge. This fact check is bogus and can only be accepted as an opinion. You would have to be delusional or in a state of extreme denial not to include the possibility and probability that the subjects were infected as part of an experiment. AIDS is still not clearly understood and no one can say for certain how or where it was originated. The U.S. engages in all types of biological and chemical experiments, without the knowledge of the general scientific community or citizens. Your "fact check" is no more credible than Rev. Wrights "fact check".

Posted by: hammerdown | May 9, 2008 8:08 AM | Report abuse

399 cases and not one transmission? Despite all the precautions taken by our humane, conscientious government, is that plausible?

A big government guidebook called "A Study of Assassination," Nothing short of astonishing?

Posted by: Singing Senator | May 9, 2008 8:14 AM | Report abuse

This is a classic example of mis-direction. The author has no shame.
The facts are that these men were identified as having the disease while it was still treatable. They were lied to, wasted their time on bogus treatment that merely monitored the progress of their decline, allowed to suffer, and die. They were nothing more than human lab rats.
Isn't that enough to prove Rev Wright's point?

Posted by: Dan Dashnaw | May 9, 2008 8:17 AM | Report abuse

The point, frankly is that having a legitimate grievance is not a license to embellish, fabricate, and inflate the facts.

What the government did was without question reprehensible -- no one disputes that.

But for those who criticize its behavior to make wildly inaccurate claims does not help their arguments -- it undermines them.

Posted by: Jblog | May 9, 2008 8:20 AM | Report abuse

I dont understand how the "fact checker" can so easily dismiss the consequences to the innocent sexual partners of these 399 black men. It is a FACT that the government intentionally infected the partners of those men, by NOT informing those men of the nature of their disease.

So in that sense, Rev. Wright was correct, wasn't he?

Posted by: blatherdude | May 9, 2008 8:43 AM | Report abuse

"I dont understand how the "fact checker" can so easily dismiss the consequences to the innocent sexual partners of these 399 black men."

Yes, you do. Read your Bible again, the part about complaining of the speck in my eye when you have a beam in your own. Michael Dobbs literally gets paid to point out when pols quibble, yet -- when it suits his world-view -- he has no trouble quibbling over whether the government (i.e.) INFECTED blacks or simply allowed blacks with syphilis to suffer and die -- while telling them they were being treated. Because, you know, black lives aren't as important as white lives (isn't that Hillary's latest line?).

He has no credibility with me.

Posted by: gbooksdc | May 9, 2008 8:51 AM | Report abuse

And BTW, Mr. Dobbs, this statement of yours is false. "Among those responsible for spreading the myth are TV anchors like Tom Brokaw who said on the nightly news that black men "were infected, without their knowledge, and then went untreated for years while the government studied the effects of the disease." "

They were infected. They did not know they were infected -- which means it was without their knowledge. Quoting from Tuskegee U's own website on the matter (http://www.tuskegee.edu/Global/Story.asp?s=1207586), "These men, for the most part illiterate sharecroppers from one of the poorest counties in Alabama, were never told what disease they were suffering from or of its seriousness."

Mr. Brokaw did not say the men "were infected BY THE GOVERNMENT, without their knowledge ...", though evidently, that's the way you took it. His statement, PARTICULARLY by the standards of your own parsing, is accurate, and you are inaccurate to say that he was wrong.

Posted by: gbooksdc | May 9, 2008 8:57 AM | Report abuse

Coming up next: Mr. Dobbs' parses Hillary's statement that marginalized black voters is to whether or not it was racist. Here's the audio, sir; I can't wait to read your tortured essay on why this isn't hateful.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PfidftLe5Z0

(You might discuss with your 3 or 4 black colleagues why treating human beings like laboratory animals, allowing people to allowing suffer and die, and calling that merely "a deplorable breach of medical ethics", as if they'd merely violated patient confidentiality, is racist. I doubt any Jew would consider Josef Mengele merely guilty of breaching medical ethics. The Allies called them war crimes.)

Posted by: gbooksdc | May 9, 2008 9:06 AM | Report abuse

Gee, this makes me feel much better.

Posted by: browneri | May 9, 2008 9:13 AM | Report abuse

You are jumping on Brokaw for this? "[B]lack men "were infected, without their knowledge, and then went untreated for years while the government studied the effects of the disease." So you're saying that the government knowing but not telling or treating somehow makes it better? Take a long, hard look at yourself in the mirror.

Posted by: Are you serious? WTF | May 9, 2008 9:27 AM | Report abuse

davidword: This is how wars are started, how hatred grows. What the govt did was deplorable - the article says that. to say that the govt infected them is to fan the flames of division. At some point, people have to stop spreading that which is false, and focus on what the facts are.

------------------------------------
To deny that this was a deplorable event that brought shame upon our country is not healing the wounds either. How does the event not make people mistrust the government? They abused the trust of those men in Tuskegee and to say "well, we didn't give it to him" is like drinking bottled water in front of Katrina victims as they die of dehydration and say "well I didn't take the water away from them." Just face up to the fact it is terrible instead of nitpicking Rosie's (seriously why is she relevant?) lack of specificity.

Posted by: WOW | May 9, 2008 9:32 AM | Report abuse

What I would like to know is whether or not any African American scientists, doctors or nurses, specically from the Tuskegee Institute participate in the experiment during its 40 years of operation.

IF that is the case then probably what we are dealing with is a case of "CLASS" problems rather than "RACE" problems.

Posted by: WDannen | May 9, 2008 9:36 AM | Report abuse

Oh, they weren't that infectious. I didn't realize I had this all wrong. What a noble experiement... I guess we had to keep up with the Siberian gulag science of our competitors in Russia.

Posted by: Good day, sir | May 9, 2008 9:37 AM | Report abuse

So, let me get this straight... by not treating them, and allowing them to infect countless others, including women who then gave birth to babies while infected with syphillis, thus passing it on to their babies ISN'T the same as purposely infecting African Americans with syphillis?

I fail to see how. If I had AIDS/HIV, and decided to have unprotected sex with someone, and not tell them I was infected, I can be PROSECUTED for attempted murder. Show me where this is different? At the time, syphillis was as bad as AIDS.

Posted by: brynblack | May 9, 2008 9:38 AM | Report abuse

Just reread the article and saw this: "How the women and children were infected remains unknown."

I can guess. D'ya think it might just be because they had unprotected sex with men (or born to) who were ALLOWED to continue, while it was known they were infected but no treatment given, BY OUR GOVERNMENT?

That was a ridiculous statement.

Posted by: brynblack | May 9, 2008 9:42 AM | Report abuse

Comments have been made (correctly) which question HOW the Fact Checker and others know, with certainty, that the men were not first infected by the federal government. Even though syphilis was more widespread at the time, was it "luck" that 399 men........Black men, just happened to have syphilis, just happened to live in the Tuskegee area, and just happened to have no family members or associates who could provide "educated" counsel. We must remember that there were Black people at the time who were aware of this situation, as it has been well documented that certain Black medical personnel at Tuskegee Institute were actively involved in the experiments.

What is considerably more troubling is the American Chemistry Council's test, with federal government assistance, of certain insecticides on Black children, including babies. Each family was poor. The structure of the program including giving the parent, usually a single mother, a video camera to tape how her children reacted to roach sprays and other insecticides....over time. These tests occurred within the last FIVE YEARS....in Florida! Fortunately, Congresswoman Barbara Boxer came forward and put a halt to it. An easy verification using Google should raise questions such as: (1) Why were only Black children, including babies used in the Florida experiment? (2) Why were Native American young people used? (3) Why were "rural" White young people used? (4) Why wasn't the experiment broad-based, to include the children and grandchildren of members of Congress? (5) Where was the Congressional Black Caucus?

The Fact Checker and others from the University environment can "parse" words, however, the real FACT remains that the Tuskegee experiment, along with the "experiments" on young people within the last few years raises real questions regarding HOW these could occur WITHOUT federal government knowledge and/or involvement. It would be very helpful if Mr. Dobbs, i.e., The Fact Checker, could try to find real answers and not view himself as someone who is there to "debunk" theories. We can all "handle the truth"........as long as it's not "made up"!

Posted by: Phil, Nebraska | May 9, 2008 9:44 AM | Report abuse

What I would like to know is whether or not any African American scientists, doctors or nurses, specically from the Tuskegee Institute participate in the experiment during its 40 years of operation.

IF that is the case then probably what we are dealing with is a case of "CLASS" problems rather than "RACE" problems.

Posted by: WDannen | May 9, 2008 9:36
_____________________________________

The way the pool of men was chosen dictates whether it was racism and/or classism at work. Clearly, if the participants chosen were based only on class then poor whites would have been included. I'm not sure what difference you think it can truly make whether any doctors, nurses, janitors, etc. were African-American. Did it change how the men were chosen, treated or died?

The fact of the matter is that classism and racism were at play here. What you need to do is ask yourself why you're too timid to consider that Racism is the main, and overriding, factor. Further, with the benefit of hindsight, and a little more knowledge on your part, I can't see how the answer isn't obvious to you.

Posted by: Flabbergast! | May 9, 2008 10:01 AM | Report abuse

The movie "Mrs. Ever's Boys" with Whoopie Goldberg based on the play Bad Blood details the story of the African American public health nurse who worked on the case for almost the entire 40 years. I don't think the fact that a black woman knew about the project changes anything. Nurses had very little power to stop Doctors. Not that that we have much power now, but we would at least complain nowadays.

Posted by: cminmd | May 9, 2008 10:25 AM | Report abuse

Why this is more factual than revrend wright's version: because the researchers, records, and administrators say that the men were already infected. If you're going to disbelieve the official line that's fine but the story that you DO believe should be more authoratative for SOME reason.

As for whether denying people treatment is as bad as infecting them: Only in a strictly utilitarian moral philosophy. Not that that by any means excuses the individual researchers from the wrong they DID commit, but in most systems of ethics - including the one that we have evolved into our genes - causing an ill actively and failing to prevent it are indeed of different moral statures.

Posted by: Togakangaroo | May 9, 2008 10:28 AM | Report abuse

The government didn't give smallpox infected blankets to the Indians either.

Funny, this was just revisited on The Straight Dope this week. It was the commander of British forces in North America during the French and Indian War who was responsible for the best-documented case of biological warfare against Native Americans.

Posted by: Appalled in Any Case | May 9, 2008 10:33 AM | Report abuse

Oh, and can we please stop blaming 'the government' and blame the researchers involved in the study? I somehow doubt that the president was recieving daily status reports on a random syphillis research experiment in Alabama.

Hell, I did research in imaging software for missle defense and you know who looked at it? No one, that's who!

Is someone suggesting that its official government policy to poison black people? Because if you are, just say that. Otherwise, blame the researchers involved. They're dicks, we all agree, hooray.

Posted by: Togakangaroo | May 9, 2008 10:35 AM | Report abuse

Michael, your minor obsession with Tuskegee (and the major obsession the press has with Wright) are an excellent example of the problem our country still has with race: our failure to empathize with one another.

To use a much more extreme example, we actually don't know how many people were killed in the Holocaust. The death toll is somewhere between 4-7 million, and the 6 million figure commonly used is somewhat arbitrary. Given this - does the WPost have any desire to "fact check" the Holocaust? If you did, would you be as insensitive to how (justifiably!) upsetting your "fact check" would be to Jews?

The media is obsessing over Rev. Wright more for his failure to "love" America than for any specific errors in his statements (after all, it's not like Pat Robertson, John Hagee, and other white preachers haven't made equally outrageous claims).

Your failure, Michael Dobbs, is to understand *why* some blacks might feel that Tuskegee fits a general pattern of America treating them as sub-human, and *why* they might be a bit upset about that history. Your "fact checks" come across as apologetic toward the government for conducting dangerous & unethical medical experiments on black folk, and completely insensitive to why others may find your posts on this subject infuriating.

Posted by: Ray42 | May 9, 2008 10:41 AM | Report abuse

This government sucks!! This is pitiful! The way the U.S. treats ALL of their minorities is horrible and all need to be held accountable for such deplorable actions! I don't want to hear "I am sorry"...Sorry my a**!! It's not getting any better anytime you have a prominent Presidential Candidate with a well known name as "Clinton!" degrade her own race as "stupid and racist" and depicts a race war just so that the wicked witch can be crowned Queen of America is disgusting and EVERYONE including white, black, yellow and brown needs to call her a** on such low class behavior. It's not about electing a President, it's about keeping the country on one accord especially when we have such a horrible and disgusting history...It's pathetic.....sickning....To he** with that sisterhood crap, so what because the white woman doesn't get to be crowned, down with the black candidate because he is unworthy....and the DNC sits on their useless a** and don't stop this bi*&)(_!! I have had it with America and it's incredilble bulls*** line about democracy!!! I am soooo happy that the world is watching us and see just how hateful we really are towards our own...and we have got the absolute nerve to liberate another country when our own backyards are filthy! Shame on you America, Shame on you!!!

Posted by: Shameful&Pitiful | May 9, 2008 11:05 AM | Report abuse

This government sucks!! This is pitiful! The way the U.S. treats ALL of their minorities is horrible and all need to be held accountable for such deplorable actions! I don't want to hear "I am sorry"...Sorry my a**!! It's not getting any better anytime you have a prominent Presidential Candidate with a well known name as "Clinton!" degrade her own race as "stupid and racist" and depicts a race war just so that the wicked witch can be crowned Queen of America is disgusting and EVERYONE including white, black, yellow and brown needs to call her a** on such low class behavior. It's not about electing a President, it's about keeping the country on one accord especially when we have such a horrible and disgusting history...It's pathetic.....sickning....To he** with that sisterhood crap, so what because the white woman doesn't get to be crowned, down with the black candidate because he is unworthy....and the DNC sits on their useless a** and don't stop this bi*&)(_!! I have had it with America and it's incredilble bulls*** line about democracy!!! I am soooo happy that the world is watching us and see just how hateful we really are towards our own...and we have got the absolute nerve to liberate another country when our own backyards are filthy! Shame on you America, Shame on you!!!

Posted by: Shameful&Pitiful | May 9, 2008 11:05 AM | Report abuse

As a physician, I find Mr. Dobbs' assertion that deliberately infecting someone vs. not treating someone for that infection is somehow different to be a moot, pointless, ridiculous argment. Mr. Dobbs' attempt to draw a distinction is absolutely pathetic. There is a continuing lingering effects this study has had on African Americans who to this day distrust physicians and their rates of participation in valid clinical trials, and organ donation rates are quite low as has been documented in several studies by Johns Hopkins researchers. Please Mr. Dobbs, stick to politics--I am sure there are plenty of other lies, misstatements and untruths that are and will be told by politicians. Stay away from trying to draw distinctions between degrees of moral repugnancy.

Posted by: GVenkatraman | May 9, 2008 11:34 AM | Report abuse

"...and whether the men were infected or just untreated is one of the oldest and least documented "facts"

It is also moot... if I know of a murder plot, watch it unfold and do nothing before, during or after to stop it, but in fact aid in the plot by telling the victims that they will be OK, that they will be safe, would any court in the country acquit me of murder charges? It only takes a single small act in FURTHERANCE of a criminal enterprise to be guilty of conspiracy to commit murder even if I do not pull the trigger or deal the killing blow. In the eyes of the law, infecting them would be seen no differently than witholding treatment and the information that they were infected.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 9, 2008 11:41 AM | Report abuse

"But for those who criticize its behavior to make wildly inaccurate claims does not help their arguments -- it undermines them.

Posted by: Jblog | May 9, 2008 8:20 AM"

This is true, but the claims are far from "wildly inaccurate". Read the legal definition of conspiracy and you will see that in the eyes of the law hiding the fact that the men were infected is every bit as reprehensible as purposely infecting them would be. Both would be considered premeditated homicide.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 9, 2008 11:51 AM | Report abuse

The "Fact-Checker" has got to be one of the stupidest twits in America. These men then passed along that Syphilis to women and unborn children. If government doctors know that a patient has syphilis, but refuse to let that patient know, and worse refuse to treat the patient, they are complicit when the patient then spreads the disease within his community and family. You are an obtuse and sick little man Michael Dobbs.

Posted by: Stav | May 9, 2008 11:57 AM | Report abuse

Even if the government directly didn't infect african americans with syphillis, the are just as guilty of letting them suffer without proper treatment of anykind and allowing them to spread it to other people when they clearly knew that it could be possibly fatal if left untreated. The facts are they treated the men of that experiment and black men and woman and children like guinea pigs, test tube experiments back in the day and didn't blink or bat an eye. But so many americans wonder why blacks have the disdain and distrust of our government. I'm not going out there to say the government has deliberately allowed the AIDS virus to spread in our communities but judgeng from the past, and the fact that not nearly enough money is being spent on education and prevention, finding a cure, and on affordable drugs for those who have the virus, they seem to be not batting an eye on this as well. AIDS has killed more than any nuclear bomb and terrorist attack but I don't see nearly the intesity to combat this problem than to combat the fictitious Weapons of Mass Destruction that really was located in the Republican Party

Posted by: 2pacolypse | May 9, 2008 12:04 PM | Report abuse

Look, to those saying that it makes no difference whether the men were infected by the government or 'just' that the disease was allowed to take its' course, with all due respect it makes all the difference in the world. Now, let me be clear, that it is not MORALLY or ETHICALLY better but from the perspective of history, in as much as that field is an attempt to reconstruct an accurate picture of the past, it matters. Because the history is *what actually happened*, not what makes for the better sounding story.

Our government engaged in unauthorized medical experiments on people who were not informed of all their options. THAT is an outrage and adding on the non-factual idea that the government deliberately inflicted the disease on these men does nothing to advance the point that what our government did was wrong. In fact, it *distracts* from it because it gives those who would give a free pass or, at very best, do some vague hand-waving around the issue something to hold onto. They can make the debate about whether or not the government infected people with syphilis instead of focusing on the *actual* crime that took place and the racist motivations behind it.

Facts matter, people. I know that eight years of the Bush administration and a good quarter century of dumbing down in education might lead one to conclude otherwise, facts really matter and so it is important to get those facts straight.

Posted by: Adrienne | May 9, 2008 12:05 PM | Report abuse

"As for whether denying people treatment is as bad as infecting them: Only in a strictly utilitarian moral philosophy. Not that that by any means excuses the individual researchers from the wrong they DID commit, but in most systems of ethics - including the one that we have evolved into our genes - causing an ill actively and failing to prevent it are indeed of different moral statures.

Posted by: Togakangaroo | May 9, 2008 10:28 AM"

You are ABSOLUTELY WRONG... if I know there is poison in the kool-aid, purposely allow you to drink the kool-aid so I can study the way the poison kills you and never tell you not to drink the kool-aid or offer an explanation as to why you are sick after you drink the kool-aid I will be found guilty of homicide in any American court. There is no requirement that I actually be the one who put the poison in the kool-aid, I could even watch you ,unknowingly, put the poison in the kool-aid yourself and I would be just as guilty of murder.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 9, 2008 12:06 PM | Report abuse

What I would like to know is whether or not any African American scientists, doctors or nurses, specically from the Tuskegee Institute participate in the experiment during its 40 years of operation.

IF that is the case then probably what we are dealing with is a case of "CLASS" problems rather than "RACE" problems.

Posted by: WDannen | May 9, 2008 9:36 AM

Had to comment after reading this. This is by far the dumbest post I have read in a while. Are you serious? How many homophobes are later realized to be gay themselves (think Senator Craig)? Does that vindicate them of any hateful actions that they may have committed?

Let me state the obvious; Being part of the race does not innoculate you from being hateful of the race. According to your logic you have to be an alien (or any other non Homo Sapien) to commit a crime against humanity.

P.S> If it sounds like I am talking "down" to you, I am.

Posted by: Jay | May 9, 2008 12:45 PM | Report abuse

There is an excellent book on the Tuskegee Study called Bad Blood. I've read it and there are a lot of charges thrown around here that aren't borne out by the facts. When the Tuskegee study started penicillin hadn't been discovered. There was no effective treatment for syphilis at the time so the gov't wasn't withholding anything from those who were already infected. Syphilis was endemic in the area around Tuskegee, which is one reason it was chosen for the study. As I remember the book, the initial work was going to be funded by a private foundation and it did include treatment, but the Depression intervened, the Foundation lost its resources and it became an observational study on the course of syphilis in black men. That was still objectionable because they never informed the men that they had syphilis.

What is unforgivable is that after penicillin became the standard treatment it was withheld from the men. Syphilis is most transmissible in its early stages, so the researchers believed that any transmission had already occurred before penicillin had become available. No excuses though, their duty was to treat the men to prevent further damage to their health.

The Tuskegee Study is terribly important because of the vast amount of distrust it has engendered. That's understandable. People who dismiss black Americans fears of being used as dispensable guinea pigs are foolish. But the gov't did not set out to infect anyone, the real crime was withholding treatment when it was available, not informing the men that they were infected, and keeping the study going when it should have ended with the penicillin becoming available.

Posted by: SteveH | May 9, 2008 12:49 PM | Report abuse

Most of the people writing in with comments seem to be missing the point. The facts in the Tuskegee study are horrendous enough; there is no need to embellish them with all this inaccurate talk of deliberate infections. The accepted history of the Tuskegee study is that people with a deadly but treatable disease were deliberately left uninformed and untreated; isn't that enough for us to be horrified and outraged? Exaggerations and misinformation just undermine the credibility of the true story.

Posted by: Tamara | May 9, 2008 1:18 PM | Report abuse

WDannen,

Exactly how many black scientists and doctors do you think there were between 1932 and 1942? You seriously need to read up on your history. Racism was alive and well in that time, and black people were barely able to go to elementary school and get an education. So, I'd probably say close to no black doctors or scientists were involved in that experiment.

Posted by: realitycheck | May 9, 2008 1:26 PM | Report abuse

Is there a difference, morally, between giving someone syphilis and letting them suffer with it because you are "doing an experiment?"

If so, why weren't any white syphilitics included in an experiment?

Racist bs is morally wrong, and the hippocratic oath doesn't mention color!!!!

Posted by: jeffp | May 9, 2008 1:38 PM | Report abuse

A split hair regarding the Tuskegee tests does not belong in this column. It's not just a matter of taste or tact, but of truth.

As for taste, it's sickening you would report this in your cutesy, "Spy Magazine"-influenced "Fact-Checker," illustrated with light-hearted "Pinocchio Test" icons. "Fact-Checker" is harmless enough when it deals with run-of-the-mill campaign hyperbole. But have you no sense of tone? The known, undisputed history of the Tuskegee experiment is monstrous. Only when we go beyond that are facts disputed, so is the Pinocchio column the place for tasteful discussion?

Moreover, though a journalist wouldn't understand this, any semanticist would tell you that it is indeed far closer to truth to say patients were infected--even if they were simply allowed to die in agony--than it is to drop the explosive word "myth" into a lede about Tuskegee. "Myth," by definition, is far too broad and powerful to describe something that's closer to simple overstatement. If American POWs died because they were not fed, some would say they were "killed." The Post might not choose this word, but nor would it grossly overstate in the other direction by "debunking' such a description by calling it "myth." "Myth," used here, as you well know, will leave quick scanners of the article believing that much or all of what is said about Tuskegee is untrue. It should. It's that kind of word. And news stories are all about quick scanning, which makes responsible word choices all the more important.

Who needs to be slammed, here? The people who used "infected" were guilty of error, not myth-making. The Post, by calling it the latter, is at the very least guilty of characterizing the popular understanding of Tuskegee as overblown. It isn't. But given time, we'll here the Tuskegee experiment called a "conspiracy theory" if news sources continue to write further from the truth than the "facts" they presume to "check."

Posted by: hazmatt | May 9, 2008 2:01 PM | Report abuse

I think it is an absolute shame that someone can make a living by having a platform to be this kind of an idiot.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 9, 2008 2:15 PM | Report abuse

This is really amazing. As an African-American, reading the assertions of those who support the Fact-Checker's point, I am persuaded that those who still distrust the government are absolutely correct to do so.
This does not mean I think experiments are taking place as we speak. But facts are, indeed, facts and people remember what you have done as the first clue to what you will do. The perpetrators were killing black men for decades, intentionally. How can a small point of when the government's involvement began be relevant?
Simply, it isn't. Those men were murdered and their families grievously injured by disease. This is all that matters.
That apparently intellegent citizens of the country are rationalizing the relativity of the evil committed tells me that the government, if it wanted to, could commit similar crimes at will -- the country does not really enjoy self-examination, and so will rationalize the crimes we commit upon our weakest.

Posted by: Craig | May 9, 2008 2:15 PM | Report abuse

You must be kidding!

Posted by: GOS | May 9, 2008 2:33 PM | Report abuse

Does anyone care what big mouth Rosie has to say? Give a little money to a fool, and the fool thinks they can buy influence and people will listen to them. Rosie and Wright are one and the same.

Posted by: svbreeder | May 9, 2008 2:47 PM | Report abuse

...instead of crying "ain't that a shame" every white person should be required to tithe to the "Church of the Rev Wright"...

Posted by: Anonymous | May 9, 2008 3:21 PM | Report abuse

[ANOTHER] perfect example of the [continuing] racial divide & ignorance in the good ole U.S. of A. !!!

Posted by: coatese | May 9, 2008 3:21 PM | Report abuse

If you really, really want to know - Look for a documentary called, "The Origin Of Aids" - (once aired on the Sundance Channel.) It will blow you away!

Posted by: octagon | May 9, 2008 3:31 PM | Report abuse

what da F**K is this crap??? The government didn't give them syphillis?? Are you freaking kidding?

Posted by: dft | May 9, 2008 3:42 PM | Report abuse

Wow -- when did the comments section turn into Black Helicopter Update Central?

Posted by: Huh? | May 9, 2008 3:45 PM | Report abuse

Haven't heard Rev. Wright explain the rationale for his statement on the subject yet, but it occurred to me as I watched the cable broadcasts ~ "we" (our government's new faith-based initiatives ~ such as passing out medicine after the fact for AIDS victims in *Africa* ~ where the victims are primarily black, yes? ~ along with little sermons on abstinence? instead of condoms,

uhmm, oh well nevermind.

Posted by: CynthiaCr | May 9, 2008 3:51 PM | Report abuse

If you find that there were black doctors were present???? will that mean the US government is less responsible??? Would that mean that when black people are involve the US government is less culpable? Or would it mean that it would be antiblack and antiwhite?

Why not deal with the substance? You can talk about refuting a lie but if the essense of the claim is true, why harrass someone because they have the death part right.


---------------
What I would like to know is whether or not any African American scientists, doctors or nurses, specically from the Tuskegee Institute participate in the experiment during its 40 years of operation.

IF that is the case then probably what we are dealing with is a case of "CLASS" problems rather than "RACE" problems.

Posted by: WDannen | May 9, 2008 9:36 AM

Posted by: What part of class denies racism? | May 9, 2008 3:57 PM | Report abuse

The Fact Checker promo on the homepage of washingtonpost.com says:

"The myth that refuses to die: Rosie O'Donnell joins the Rev. Wright in accusing the U.S. government of deliberately infecting African-Americans with syphilis."

I don't think Wright has made that specific accusation. He didn't in his National Press Club speech and answers to followup questions, and in the videos of his Trinity United sermons that I've seen he cited the Tuskegee experiment pretty accurately. If I'm correct, the Post should revise that promo.

Posted by: Tom Grubisich | May 9, 2008 4:04 PM | Report abuse

You know, this type of article is what's wrong with objective analysis in the press these days...

If you looked at the "facts" you would know the government is directly responsible for infecting 59 AMERICANS.

And, they were innocent women and children.

I don't think these family members(who became infected by the intentional actions or lack there of by the government) would make the same distinction you seem to be making in your article.

So, try and follow the fact pattern-if you can.

Fact:
The government allowed men in this community to suffer from the effects of syphilis without treatment, even though a cure was widely available.

Fact:
The government knew how syphilis spread. (Part of the study was based on researching prevelance)

Fact:
They "intentionally" and "deliberately" withheld treatment.

Fact:
That decision "directly" led to NEW infections.

Fact:
Nothing was done to protect family members of the "participants" from obtaining the disease.

Objective Analysis:
The government "intentionally" allowed the family members to become infected with the disease by "deliberately" withholding treatment to the study's participants.


Now, using your logic, are we to place the blame or responsibly for new infections on the "participants" of this study?

I think not.

Your lack of "objective" reporting and so called "fact checking" is a disgrace to journalism.

Posted by: Enlighten Youself | May 9, 2008 4:10 PM | Report abuse

WaPo/Pravda: As a reporter writing under the tag-line "fact-checker" Mr. Dobbs should be fired.

The "fact" Mr. Dobbs is "debunking" is later confirmed when he cites that untreated patients infected others, therefore, the government was responsible for infecting people in the Tuskegee community.

The government didn't use a syringe to infect "40 wives and 19 children", they used negligence. Ok got it.

Mr. Dobbs asserts that no one knows if the infected people number 40 or less (or more.)

If Mr. Dobbs (the "fact checker") is able to confim that MORE THAN ONE person was infected, then Peter Jennings (peace be with him) can say "the government infected black people". If only one person was infected by the 399 men, PJ (and Rosie) would have to say "the government infected a single black person" to be accurate.

Mr. Dobbs, If you read this, I advise you to tell your editors that you watched rosie o'donnell before writing the article and lost your composure.

Posted by: firemichaeldobbs | May 9, 2008 4:11 PM | Report abuse

sorry folks i should have read the comment thread before posting, everyone else is saying the same thing.

Pravda/WaPo, please start to do interviews before hiring your reporters. Mr. Dobbs doesnt' measure up to the standards set by reporters like Dana Priest who risk their own safety to get us the facts.

Facts matter. It's important that Pravda/WaPo hire capable folks to get the facts checked.

Posted by: firemichaeldobbs | May 9, 2008 4:19 PM | Report abuse

Amazing how people like Rosie O'Donnel or Tom Brokaw are actually even given editorial space regarding this matter. WHO CARES what they think! Are they suddenly now the Surgeons General or something? They are "celebrities," not scientists or researchers. Brokaw just probably mis-spoke.

Anyone who knows anything about the history of Tuskeegee knows that the men were NOT infected by the government (a.) why would you even need to do so when there were so many available subjects already infected; and b.) it would totally skew the validity of the study, which intended to study the disease process from [natural] inception to its end.) Some of the blacks in the study DID get treatment, but the control group of men did not. Tuskeegee was intended to study the full course of the disease and determine if or how it would progress differently in Negroes vs. how it operated in Caucasians. There had already been detailed studies done on the effects of syphilis on Caucasians done years before in Europe. The Tuskeegee study was to determine how the effects would differ between the races -- it was basically a crude attempt at determining what we would consider the effect of genetic differences on human disease, and, by extension, what biological differences there were between the races (i.e., to show scientifically that whites and blacks were more alike than different, biologically.) This is actually why many of the physicians involved in performing the study were blacks. They in fact hoped that the study would show there were no biological differences between the races, that syphylis affected both equally. (Remember this was in an era when the blood from different races would not be cross-transfused).

We have come a long way in what we allow or do not allow in terms of human experimentation. [Even today, many ethical problems STILL arise in this field.]

Not that it makes everything better, but no, blacks were never puropsely infected as part of this study.

Posted by: Spector | May 9, 2008 4:21 PM | Report abuse

Your column makes a distinction without a difference. In fact, by not treating these men, they in turn went on to infect other people, many of whom, no doubt, went untreated. This was a deliberate epidemic sponsored in the name of "research" by our government. Four Pinocchios for the Fact Checker. You discredit yourself with this one.

Posted by: Chuck | May 9, 2008 4:35 PM | Report abuse

Bottom line... These men were treated as less than human when the US government could have done something about it and they chose not to. If your father, brother, son, husband, is not being treated by a physician for a disease that is curable but can cause his death if not treated, does it really matter if the physician caused the disease?

Posted by: Anonymous | May 9, 2008 4:41 PM | Report abuse

Do you really have nothing better to write about?

Posted by: gavin930 | May 9, 2008 4:54 PM | Report abuse

Your finding shows an even worst situation than imagine, failure to cure your own when we (the US) had the cure, or developed a cure is unimaginable. Because the victims got a financial settlement the country should bury the historical accounts and never speak of the matter is dumb for lack of a better word. If that the cast history is dome to repeat itself.

Let bury all bad historical events that ever happen that show us in a negative way. Question for author and his defenders was the Holocaust over blown too? To inform one of events will help us learn and heel and not to fall victim to such an act again.

Posted by: Vincent | May 9, 2008 5:05 PM | Report abuse

So, if I understand Mr. Dobbs, aka "Fact Checker's" point correctly; we are wrong and should be ashamed of ourselves for accusing the government of infecting the men with syphilis when all they did was - not inform them they had the disease, fool them into actually thinking they were being treated when all they were really receiving were placebos', allowed them to infect their wifes and girlfriends... oh, and watched them die very excruciating and drawn out deaths.

I don't need to get into how flawed your 'facts' were for this article because so many others have done very eloquent jobs addressing the matter.

You have flawed writing abilities but you've made it clear you have an even more flawed sense of ethics.

Posted by: timG | May 9, 2008 5:15 PM | Report abuse

So, if I understand Mr. Dobbs, aka the "Fact Checker's" point correctly; We are very wrong and should be ashamed for accusing the U. S. government for infecting the men with Syphilis when all they did was - Not inform them that they had the disease, pretend they were treating the men when all they were really doing was giving them placebos, allow them to infect their wives and girlfriends...oh and watch them die very excruciating, and drawn out deaths.

I won't get into how flawed your 'facts' were in this article Dobbs because so may others have done so so eloquently already but I will say your writing abilities leave much to be desired. But that discrepancy pales in comparison to the discrepancy in your sense of ethics.

Posted by: timG | May 9, 2008 5:46 PM | Report abuse

my guess that any source of information disputing the incident came from "the government".
yeah, like i will believe any thing "the government" says. HA!

Posted by: arthur a allen | May 9, 2008 6:05 PM | Report abuse

Sounds like the SS experiments during WWII.

Posted by: IBMWorst | May 9, 2008 6:07 PM | Report abuse

Michael Dobbs once again shows his ignorance of the facts. How unfortunate that there is no "fact checker" to fact check him.

As others of you have already pointed out, not just the error of his incomplete sourcing, you have also pointed out the faults in his logic.

Smarter persons than he will report the whole unfiltered story one day. Not only were men who "infected" part of the experiment, but otherwise healthy men were infected, too. All as part of a "final solution" to America's "black problem."

Hilter had his Zyklon gas. The US used syphilis.

Posted by: An Inconvenient Truth | May 9, 2008 6:25 PM | Report abuse

they died under the watch of democrats, they could have stopped it any time they wanted to and they didn't.

Posted by: Dwight | May 9, 2008 6:37 PM | Report abuse

The story should focus on the fact that the government was aware of the medical condition but chose to let these men suffer.

Posted by: CP | May 9, 2008 6:38 PM | Report abuse

The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment
www.tuskegee.edu/Global/Story.asp?s=1207586
by Borgna Brunner

For forty years between 1932 and 1972, the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS) conducted an experiment on 399 black men in the late stages of syphilis. These men, for the most part illiterate sharecroppers from one of the poorest counties in Alabama, were never told what disease they were suffering from or of its seriousness. Informed that they were being treated for "bad blood," their doctors had no intention of curing them of syphilis at all.

The data for the experiment was to be collected from autopsies of the men, and they were thus deliberately left to degenerate under the ravages of tertiary syphilis--which can include tumors, heart disease, paralysis, blindness, insanity, and death. "As I see it," one of the doctors involved explained, "we have no further interest in these patients until they die."

Posted by: dotheresearch | May 9, 2008 6:39 PM | Report abuse

By the end of the experiment, 28 of the men had died directly of syphilis, 100 were dead of related complications, 40 of their wives had been infected, and 19 of their children had been born with congenital syphilis. How had these men been induced to endure a fatal disease in the name of science?

To persuade the community to support the experiment, one of the original doctors admitted it "was necessary to carry on this study under the guise of a demonstration and provide treatment." At first, the men were prescribed the syphilis remedies of the day --bismuth, neoarsphenamine, and mercury-- but in such small amounts that only 3 percent showed any improvement.

These token doses of medicine were good public relations and did not interfere with the true aims of the study. Eventually, all syphilis treatment was replaced with "pink medicine" --aspirin.

To ensure that the men would show up for a painful and potentially dangerous spinal tap, the PHS doctors misled them with a letter full of promotional hype: "Last Chance for Special Free Treatment." The fact that autopsies would eventually be required was also concealed.

As a doctor explained, "If the colored population becomes aware that accepting free hospital care means a post-mortem, every darky will leave Macon County..." Even the Surgeon General of the United States participated in enticing the men to remain in the experiment, sending them certificates of appreciation after 25 years in the study

Posted by: dotheresearch | May 9, 2008 6:40 PM | Report abuse

the answer to
"What I would like to know is whether or not any African American scientists, doctors or nurses, specically from the Tuskegee Institute participate in the experiment during its 40 years of operation."

Yes, the doctors, scientists and nurses were all black.

Posted by: Dwight | May 9, 2008 6:41 PM | Report abuse

Blowing the Whistle
The story finally broke in the Washington Star on July 25, 1972, in an article by Jean Heller of the Associated Press. Her source was Peter Buxtun, a former PHS venereal disease interviewer and one of the few whistle blowers over the years. The PHS, however, remained unrepentant, claiming the men had been "volunteers" and "were always happy to see the doctors," and an Alabama state health officer who had been involved claimed "somebody is trying to make a mountain out of a molehill."

Under the glare of publicity, the government ended their experiment, and for the first time provided the men with effective medical treatment for syphilis. Fred Gray, a lawyer who had previously defended Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, filed a class action suit that provided a $10 million out-of-court settlement for the men and their families. Gray, however, named only whites and white organizations as defendants in the suit, portraying Tuskegee as a black and white case when it was in fact more complex than that --black doctors and institutions had been involved from beginning to end.

The PHS did not accept the media's comparison of Tuskegee with the appalling experiments performed by Nazi doctors on their Jewish victims during World War II. Yet in addition to the medical and racist parallels, the PHS offered the same morally bankrupt defense offered at the Nuremberg trials: they claimed they were just carrying out orders, mere cogs in the wheel of the PHS bureaucracy, exempt from personal responsibility.

The study's other justification --for the greater good of science-- is equally spurious. Scientific protocol had been shoddy from the start. Since the men had in fact received some medication for syphilis in the beginning of the study, however inadequate, it thereby corrupted the outcome of a study of "untreated syphilis."

Posted by: dotheresearch | May 9, 2008 6:42 PM | Report abuse

Dwight - you are wrong. The doctors that actively participated were not all black.
Picture here.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tuskegee_Study_of_Untreated_Syphilis_in_the_Negro_Male

Shame on you.

Posted by: dotheresearch | May 9, 2008 6:45 PM | Report abuse

Dodd - you should be slapped. I am completely insulted that you would try to insinuate that this did not happen. The government and the doctors deliberately made the decision and conspired for 40 years to allow Blacks to go untreated and THEY CAUSED the infection, suffering, and pain of many families and victims.

You should retract your insensitive statements. You should be ashamed of yourself. I bet you would fact check and state that the holocaust wasn't that bad because they only gassed a select few and not as much folks as is reported.

Posted by: dotheresearch | May 9, 2008 6:59 PM | Report abuse

There's a difference between being fallacious and being deceitful, but most of these fact check articles don't care to make the distinction.

Why quibble with incorrect wording? The Nazis didn't deliberately infect my grandmother with Typhoid in concentration camp, but they watched as her family slowly died of it, one by one.

I see this as no different.

Posted by: Steve Charb | May 9, 2008 7:08 PM | Report abuse

Brokaw may have been right.

A person can be "infected without his knowledge" in the sense of not being aware he is already infected, or in the sense of having been deliberately infected by someone intending to do so. We do not know from his words alone which of these Brokaw meant.

These men being told they had "bad blood" is consistent with the former.

That said, this is the stupidest fact checking ever: "I didn't push the toddler into the swimming pool. I just sat on a lawn chair and watched him drown." OK, I guess that's a big difference.

Posted by: Joe | May 9, 2008 7:19 PM | Report abuse

Ok, I can take the correction of the gov. giving the men syphillis, but what I don't accept is the last paragraph saying how the wives got the disease is unknown. Are you kidding me?!!! You've got to be kidding me!!!! Are you in sane?!!! Ok, how about this. If your wife had syphillis and you all of a sudden got it, would it be unknown how you got it?

Posted by: myjibril | May 9, 2008 7:44 PM | Report abuse

Yes there may be some misinformation as far as the twist in the story about "giving" these men Syphilis but the fact that they did leave them knowingly to be damaged and die from this disease is a fact!

Posted by: Phil | May 9, 2008 8:55 PM | Report abuse

The very facts recited by the fact-checker show that the U.S. Government DID, in fact, cause people to be infected with syphilis without their knowledge. Even the facts recited above include the fact that wives and lovers caught syphilis from the patients who THOUGHT they were receiving treatment from Government doctors, when in fact they were part of an experiment on LACK OF TREATMENT!

So, the Government knowingly and wantonly exposed wives and lovers to a known virtual certainly that some would contract syphilis, even if the Government didn't inject the original patients who went untreated with syphilis.

This is akin to the Government secretly putting passengers on a cross-country flight with untreated bubonic plague to see what would happen to the passengers and the other people on the plane. And then flying the same people around the country, untreated, for twenty years in the same condition. "We didn't give them the bubonic plague, we just didn't tell them they had it, and we set them lose in the population again, untreated." Thanks, a lot!

When a government has engaged in the Tuskeegee experiments, and now the secret spreading of chemical-laden sludge in low-income black neighborhoods, that same government can hardly be surprised when Black people suspect the very worst.

Posted by: Francis L. Holland, Esq. | May 9, 2008 9:59 PM | Report abuse

Rosie O'Donnell loves controversy and the limelight. She is the kind of person who gives gays a bad name.

Clinton won more than two-thirds of the white voters without college degrees in the last three primaries... When those Clinton supporters were asked who they would vote for in an Obama-McCain match-up, fewer than half said they would support Obama.

This is due in large part to the "Ward Churchill Syndrome." Most college educated people for the past 30 years have been victims of post-Vietnam blame America first professors.

Voters without college degrees are free of this academic poisoning and are much more likely to vote for McCain.

Posted by: alance | May 9, 2008 10:58 PM | Report abuse

Hey fact checker your research admits that the wives and offspring of the African American males were infected by the men that our wonderful government used as guinea pigs... so that proves even to a 4th grader that the US government injected the mates and descendants with the disease. This rhetorical play on words to diffuse deplorable insanely vile behavior is what pisses people off. Americans are sick and tired of being lied to, or being treated like we don't have a brain.

Rev Wright told the truth which makes many uneasy.

Posted by: clarity2 | May 10, 2008 1:07 AM | Report abuse

Tuskegee was deplorable, but remember that for any medication to be approved by the FDA it has to be tested in a "double blind" study. In plain English it means that half of the people in study don't get any medication at all while the other half gets the new untested stuff.
For some reason the medical establishment convinced people that this is the only right way to test it. So all the participants are guinea pigs.
I guess Tuskegee was the same method run Amok.

Posted by: rjc | May 10, 2008 1:28 AM | Report abuse

Hello alance of:
Posted by: alance | May 9, 2008 10:58 PM

The constinuency you are describing are PWT, coined the "rural vote" by the media or the white uneducated, non college graduates who are angry and jealous of the fact that African Americans finally have someone who looks like them running for the highest office in the land. This type of thinking is very unpatriotic and hateful.

Also, your blog has nothing to do with this article and your comments are divisive and racist.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 10, 2008 1:33 AM | Report abuse

Rosie:

Fat Hag without a prayer, will do anything to steal some air time. What an airbag!

Posted by: The Realist | May 10, 2008 1:43 AM | Report abuse

i kinda like fat hag airbag myself. doubt anyone can beat my definition?

Posted by: way out there | May 10, 2008 1:45 AM | Report abuse

Where's Jenny Craig, when you need her?

Posted by: JenniferUSA | May 10, 2008 1:46 AM | Report abuse

Got One: Hagatha!

Pure and Simple

Posted by: Adam | May 10, 2008 1:48 AM | Report abuse

I usually enjoy reading Factchecker because even when I don't like your position, your comments are still interesting and usually well thought out. This particular Factchecker is repugnant for several reasons. First and foremost, for whatever reason that may have motivated you, you have made a claim that is morally abhorrant simply because you wanted to disprove the wording of statements made by celebrities, news anchors, and even Rev Wright regarding the Tuskeegee experiements. For such a petty point you have forced yourself into a morally disgusting corner.

Second, usually your arguments considers the larger context as well as some of the nuance in the claims people make. Most of the time, you dismiss that which is unimportant but focus on the issues that are important to a particular Factchecker. In this case you did the exact opposite. It's as ridiculous as what the definition of "is" is. Regardless of whether government agents directly injected syphillis into the bodies of anyone, they promoted the continued infection and further spread of an STD even though there was a known cure - abstinence. In other words, if those men who had been infected were given proper and complete information regarding the treatment and transmission of the disease, then those illiterate black men could have taken action to at least protect those they loved as well as been able to be cured with penicillin. Moreover, these "scientists" were medical doctors and even considering the "do no harm" part of the hippocratic oath, by sitting on their hands and treating these men like guinea pigs, they did harm - morally repugnant.

Finally, you leave out a lot of facts that should be included that makes what you state less repugnant than if you knew the whole story. Notice that no white man who was known to have been infected with syphillis was included in that experiment. Are you really going to say that everyone who lived in that area that was white was educated and wealthy? That's what some of those who are posting seem to argue when they shift this from being a racist scientific experiment to a classist scientific experiment. Sometimes the best course of action is to admit the wrongs of an action rather than trying to explain it away into something more pallatable. Any scientist will tell you that this was truly one of the moral lowpoints because of the lack of informed consent, the inherent racial profiling in selecting these ment, the horrible science of it, and finally because at face value this is a morally undefensible act by those in power. If you were a white person living in that community you were treated with penicillin. As soon as they figured out penicillin worked, they actually went into the community to provide the cures so that they could stop the spread of syphillis.

Perhaps the most significant reason why what you say is morally reprehensible is that to make your case you essentially diminish the consequences of such experiments. The health disparities between African Americans and non-Hispanic whites are astronomical. Take the issue of infant mortality. The US has some of the highest rates of infant mortality compared to other industrial western nations. Why? Not because white mothers have huge portions of babies dying. Not at all. In fact, many of these babies who have severe defects receive tremendous care allowing them to survive. Americans have tremendous knowledge on prenatal care and the best treatment available incase of problems. But that is only true if you have access, availability, quality of care, and trust in the health care system to use it. For African American mothers, the infant mortality rate is equal to most underdeveloped (that would be what we used to call third world) nations. Most do not have good access to good care, cannot afford good care, nor do they have trust in doctors and nurses because of what has been the historical treatment of African Americans by the medical establishment ala Tuskeegee experiment.

But really all of this goes back to the original assertion that the US government gave HIV/AIDS to blacks in America. Just recently have the epidemiologists have been able to trace the entrance of the HIV virus from Africa via Haiti in the late 1960's. But when the disease became a problem in the early 80's, nobody did anything because it was a disease that affected gays and IV drug users (code word for black drug addicts). Until it infected larger portions of those who were not "deviants" did public health officials begin to take notice. Think how long it took Reagan to say the word AIDS. It took a while to become educated (remember Ryan White) and for drugs to start to work (AZT and the cocktails) to stave off full blown AIDS. There was also a push for safer sex practices (condom use) and education about the spread of HIV/AIDS. But that stopped with the ever so enlightened approach to sex education pushed by this administration to teach abstinence only. And so guess which demographic has the highest infection rates of HIV/AIDS? Yes, that would be black women. And is there anything being done? Not really. So if you were a preacher in a community where you see your members continuing to be ravaged by a disease that is manageable (although the regimen is challenging and requires active medical intervention) and the community historically distrusts government (slavery, separate but equal) and doctors (Tuskeegee) making these assertions is not so far fetched.

More importantly, you do diminish yourself and do us, your readers, a tremendous disservice with such trivial comments regarding a very important and serious topic.

Posted by: Maureen | May 10, 2008 1:50 AM | Report abuse

Where I live, she'd put up or shut up, and if that don't work, someone would personally kick her ass!

Posted by: Rebel with a cause | May 10, 2008 1:50 AM | Report abuse

-------------------------------------------

FAT FRIGGIN AIRBAG!....HELLO))))

Posted by: Anonymous | May 10, 2008 1:52 AM | Report abuse

NO, FAT FRIGGIN HAGATHA FOR SURE!

Posted by: Adam | May 10, 2008 1:53 AM | Report abuse

america needs to get ready for something, and it's not something that liberal pinkos are going to like.

Posted by: way out there | May 10, 2008 1:55 AM | Report abuse

Obama will divide, but he will not conquer!

Posted by: independent raza girl | May 10, 2008 1:58 AM | Report abuse

Hey Fatty, what's you gonna say? That we were all exposed to nuclear radiation in Nevada, that LSD was dropped over San Francisco in the 50's, that AIDs was a government creation?


Hey Fatty, what's you line?

Oh, one last question, was that a Democratic White House, or Republican White House, when all those black people were infected with AIDs?

Come on Fatty, give us your answer?
You old windbag you

Posted by: Anonymous | May 10, 2008 2:06 AM | Report abuse

Facts are tricky, slippery things, Michael Dobbs. With due respect, you sound like a lawyer - technically correct but morally wrong. Tell us, did the government in fact deliberately expose soldiers and civilians to radioactive fallout during atom bomb tests in the 1950s? If so, is it possible other morally wrong acts were committed? Academics love to use the word "myth"; makes them sound like adults while the rest of us are children. But your myth is a myth. Peace, brother. We're all in the same boat; we're trying to help America, not overthrow it. If there's a fire or leak on the ship, saying so is not an act of treason but of true loyalty.

Posted by: bkrider9 | May 10, 2008 4:36 AM | Report abuse

Whatever the case may be concerning this situation, the Creator knows. So as to why this article would rehash, it's only a situation that will be no further understood from that time into this time.

Posted by: Nisey01 | May 10, 2008 7:00 AM | Report abuse

"After the study was terminated in 1972, because of the public outcry, the government agreed to provide lifetime medical benefits to 22 wives, 17 children, and 2 grandchildren found to be infected with syphilis. (New York Times, May 9, 1997.) How the women and children were infected remains unknown. Family members won an out-of-court settlement worth $10 million."

You are joking right. Lemme guess we need to do another study to figure out how these women and children were infected. Puleaze.

Ever since you gave Hillary 4 for Tuzla your column has lacked courage. I'm starting to see where Hillary got her third testicle from.

Posted by: JL | May 10, 2008 10:32 AM | Report abuse

Nope, wrong Rosie. While I agree to your premise, Tuskegee Part II is Borrelia or Lyme Disease. You see, it's lied about, covered up, misdiagnosed, undertreated and it's also a spirochete like syphilis.
The Connecticut Attorney General just made a press release about anti trust matters related to the Infectious Disease Society of America's Lyme treatment guidelines, which amount to " cookbook medicine based on nothing" - MY words.
So again, I can go there with you... can you go here with me and understand thousands if not hundreds of thousands of Americans are being denied care for Borreliosis, or Lyme Disease?

Posted by: liz | May 10, 2008 4:57 PM | Report abuse

Here's a fact the fact checker might want to check: it looks like the Post has spent more column inches on this tangential Jeremiah Wright figure than they spent on all the numerous authoritative statements that were made during the runup to Iraq that that country did NOT have WMD. Why didn't the Post care as much about that as they seem to about Wright? 700,000 people have died as a result. You guys are deplorably unprofessional in your coverage judgment.

Posted by: sheesh | May 10, 2008 11:26 PM | Report abuse

its 399 americans with an std. Whoop dee do

the government kills 3 times that many people all the time!! just look at iraq...

Posted by: clearheaded | May 11, 2008 2:04 AM | Report abuse

Well, Mr. Dobbs, why didn't this noble government study include an equivalent cohort of white males infected with syphilis, or white females? It was blatantly racist, and the fact that is could have been continued as late as 1972 is disgusting! To even appear to justify, or mollify the experiment with the excuse that the men were already infected is on par with denying that the holocaust was really that bad.

I fully agree with comments regarding the current US slaughter of innocent civilians in Iraq. By any measure of normal international relations, the invasion and occupation of the sovereign state of Iraq was an unprovoked aggression, and essentially a war crime. That so many Americans smugly justify this invasion based on a vague threat of terrorism is an indication of the depth of civilian cowardice and nationalistic arrogance. Hearing all the presidential candidates promise to "keep us safe" while the genocide of innocent Iraqi's has continued for 5 long years is enough to make a decent person vomit. Mr. Dobbs undoubtedly joins the group of patriots who feel fine about that war!

Posted by: Ed | May 11, 2008 2:34 AM | Report abuse

I agree with RCD. Trust was broken. When trust is broken in this way it's really tough to repair.

For this comment
"davidword: This is how wars are started, how hatred grows. What the govt did was deplorable - the article says that. to say that the govt infected them is to fan the flames of division. At some point, people have to stop spreading that which is false, and focus on what the facts are."

You know.. that makes logical sense. But when you are black it makes you simply pissed off that this kind of stuff happened. The damage is done and you just have to take it. You don't want the flames of division fanned.. But it really takes an evolved person (think monk) to be able to successfully do that. It would be a lot easier to not "fan the flames of division" if the incident didn't happen in the first place. I need to stop reading this stuff.. I'm turning into an angry black man. lol. i'm going to bed.

Posted by: CaRay | May 11, 2008 3:23 AM | Report abuse

could the washington post please ask capable researchers to get the full facts on this and then have a few people with good judgment about comparative ethics discuss it calmly and rationally and then have good writers review the facts and consider the ethical issues and then share the results with your readers I would like to have a good opinion of your paper again as I did during Watergate

Posted by: lynnette | May 11, 2008 5:21 AM | Report abuse

please excuse the freestyle lack of punctuation I used to be a poet and now I am a sleepy ex-poet and a re-awakening citizen political commentator. could the post also give a full background on your mr dobbs - education, other writing, political commentary history, political preferences and experience, his intellectual and political and ethical mentors, etc - so we can consider the source --- perhaps the post also might consider supplying the same type information regarding its owner, publisher, editors of various sections, etc

Posted by: lynnette again | May 11, 2008 6:29 AM | Report abuse

I'm appalled taht the so-called fact checker would overlook the part that not only allowing people to be misled into believing they were coming to get treatment for syphilis but really were not provided treatment is practically like allowing transmission to occur. If someone believes they are being treated, they may also believe that they create no risk for another person. Truly understanding this shameful period would allow all Americans to better understand the suspicion that black Americans have for the intersection of government action and public health. This mistrust is valid. However, when it becomes used as a weapon against reconciliation and progress as Rev. Wright does than it can only do more harm. An eye for an eye leaves us all blind.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 11, 2008 8:50 AM | Report abuse

This fact checker is simply sick. If he had fever, went to the hospital but the doctors decided to watch him die so they can monitor the process rather than treat him, would he applaud their conduct or call them murderers. He has no proof the men were not deliberately infected. Using 399 men for an experiment that leaves them to die a painful death is a crime against humanity. Mr Dobbs makes the Rev Wright look like a candidate for sainthood.

Posted by: Akpan Thompson | May 11, 2008 9:34 AM | Report abuse

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease. There would be an extremely high probability that wives were infected after the study began, and that these infections could have been prevented. Therefore there is more truth than myth. It seems the only difference is whether the infections came from a needle administered by the government or from the lies, deceit and indifference of the government.

Posted by: truthteller | May 11, 2008 2:09 PM | Report abuse

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease. There would be an extremely high probability that wives were infected after the study began, and that these infections could have been prevented. Therefore there is more truth than myth. It seems the only difference is whether the infections came from a needle administered by the government or from the lies, deceit and indifference of the government.

Posted by: truthteller | May 11, 2008 2:11 PM | Report abuse

It happened. Look it up. Where do we go from here? Do we stay in denial? Do we justify the evilness of it all? What would Jesus do?

Posted by: Njeanous | May 11, 2008 7:11 PM | Report abuse

It happened. Look it up. Where do we go from here? Do we stay in denial? Do we justify the evilness of it all? What would Jesus do?

Posted by: Njeanous | May 11, 2008 7:11 PM | Report abuse

My thanks to the Washington Post for making it so easy to comment. It would help if Mr. Dobbs would carefully read and consider the comments, and then write a follow-up that is more precise on the facts and more sensitive about feelings of hurt and outrage, and also more nearly wise about the underlying ethical question. There is also a question regarding the heading of his commentary -- could you re-name his opinion page as his opinion page, and not dignify it with the unsubstantiated claim that it is a "fact-check." That would remove one reason why so many of your readers are annoyed with the Post and not just with Mr. Dobbs. I think it would be a good idea for you to hire a graduate student in history to research this for academic credit, under the supervision of a professor who is interested in this and knowledgeable -- and to write a true fact-check report under the supervision of a Post editor, who could help with matters of style and not try to modify the substance to support any particular political point of view.

Posted by: Lynnette again | May 11, 2008 9:15 PM | Report abuse

Boy -- you are out of touch on this one. 3 Pinocchios for this???? Are you kidding? I don't think it's at all stretching to say that, by failure to advise these men of their true condition and failing to treat them that the government certainly was complicit in "giving" syphillis to their wives and children. And I presume these innocent women and children were black. And I also think it's fair to say they were Americans. So, yes,maybe government scientists didn't stand over the "study" participants and inject syphillis spores into their veins, but I'd sure say this conduct amounted to giving black Americans syphillis. I hope factchecker reads these comments and reconsiders -- look at exactly what Rosie said --not what you think she said.

Posted by: omyobama | May 12, 2008 3:09 AM | Report abuse

Boy -- you are out of touch on this one. 3 Pinocchios for this???? Are you kidding? I don't think it's at all stretching to say that, by failure to advise these men of their true condition and failing to treat them that the government certainly was complicit in "giving" syphillis to their wives and children. And I presume these innocent women and children were black. And I also think it's fair to say they were Americans. So, yes,maybe government scientists didn't stand over the "study" participants and inject syphillis spores into their veins, but I'd sure say this conduct amounted to giving black Americans syphillis. I hope factchecker reads these comments and reconsiders -- look at exactly what Rosie said --not what you think she said.

Posted by: omyobama | May 12, 2008 3:09 AM | Report abuse

Boy -- you are out of touch on this one. 3 Pinocchios for this???? Are you kidding? I don't think it's at all stretching to say that, by failure to advise these men of their true condition and failing to treat them that the government certainly was complicit in "giving" syphillis to their wives and children. And I presume these innocent women and children were black. And I also think it's fair to say they were Americans. So, yes,maybe government scientists didn't stand over the "study" participants and inject syphillis spores into their veins, but I'd sure say this conduct amounted to giving black Americans syphillis. I hope factchecker reads these comments and reconsiders -- look at exactly what Rosie said --not what you think she said.

Posted by: omyobama | May 12, 2008 3:09 AM | Report abuse

Boy -- you are out of touch on this one. 3 Pinocchios for this???? Are you kidding? I don't think it's at all stretching to say that, by failure to advise these men of their true condition and failing to treat them that the government certainly was complicit in "giving" syphillis to their wives and children. And I presume these innocent women and children were black. And I also think it's fair to say they were Americans. So, yes,maybe government scientists didn't stand over the "study" participants and inject syphillis spores into their veins, but I'd sure say this conduct amounted to giving black Americans syphillis. I hope factchecker reads these comments and reconsiders -- look at exactly what Rosie said --not what you think she said.

Posted by: omyobama | May 12, 2008 3:14 AM | Report abuse

This article is both false and offensive. It is true that the men in the experiments were not 'deliberately infected but already had contracted syphilis. But you're alleged 'fact-check' omits any mention whatsoever of the fact that syphilis is a communicable disease, and so it spreads--in the case of the Tuskegee experiments, to their wives and children of the men in these inhuman experiments.

"How the women and children were infected remains unknown."

How convenient.

If there is a cure for a COMMUNICABLE disease and you *deliberately* withhold treatment, that is tantamount, it is morally equivalent, to infecting them, and it is *literally equivalent*--not just morally equivalent--to spreading it their spouses and children, who also went untreated.

To justify cruelty, in the name of supposed 'fact-checking' and for what are, evidently, political reasons, is repugnant.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 13, 2008 5:37 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: JakeD | May 13, 2008 12:57 PM | Report abuse

What Lynette said.

Posted by: gbooksdc | May 13, 2008 6:02 PM | Report abuse

It's not LEGALLY equivalent: http://blog.washingtonpost.com/fact-checker/2008/05/wrights_wild_charges.html#comments

Posted by: JakeD | May 13, 2008 12:57 PM
___________________________________________

"legally" is a pretty thin reed.

The law is the embodied moral code of society. To that end, it cannot be too stringent, or too many would run afoul of it. But it should not be what you aspire to. It should be the absolute minimum of your moral conduct.

Or, to express it like Chris Rock would say, the law says you have to take care of your kids. So if you take care of your kids, you do not deserve a cookie, because you're only doing that which you are supposed to do. (Trust me, it's funnier when he says it.)

Posted by: gbooksdc | May 13, 2008 7:53 PM | Report abuse

One other thing: if the patients did not know they had syphilis, and did not know their condition was contagious, they could not knowingly infect others. Also, you forgot "gross negligence." I vaguely remember something about " conduct shocking the conscience" being gross negligence, and I'd say this ranks pretty far up there on the "shock the conscience" meter.

"GROSS NEGLIGENCE - Failure to use even the slightest amount of care in a way that shows Recklessness or willful disregard for the safety of others." "kay, it's off the 'net, but still ...

Posted by: gbooksdc | May 13, 2008 7:58 PM | Report abuse

Um, folks, the fact checker is not marginalizing or condoning the experiments by simply noting the truth and exaggerations- what is wrong with you? Is telling the truth now suddenly so horrible?

Yes, you are wrong when you say that the government infected black men. It's not a matter of whether they were treated unfairly (they were) or not- it's more simple than that. You are simply wrong. By making things up you are doing a disservice to history and those who really suffered- if you cared so much, you should be able to open a book about the events and actually spend some time reading what really happened.

"People are entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts." -Sen. Daniel Moynihan

Posted by: Anonymous | May 13, 2008 10:17 PM | Report abuse

Not many people are aware of the eugenics programs the government ran either. The government performed forced as well as secret sterilizations on black people.

Just a "deplorable breach of medical ethics" of course.

Posted by: Brian | May 14, 2008 2:24 PM | Report abuse

"Negligence" is not "premeditated murder".

Posted by: JakeD | May 15, 2008 7:35 AM | Report abuse

The following was from another thread (in case anyone here wants to debate further):

Sorry. You [Dobbs] have a permanent four Pinocchios, after your hair-splitting in order to minimize the US Government's role in the Tuskegee Experiment.

Posted by: gbooksdc | May 13, 2008 6:01 PM

...

"Minimize"?! Here's where the sense of humor stops. All that Dobbs pointed out is that no one from the U.S. Government PURPOSEFULLY INFECTED those poor men -- a la Dr. Mengele -- everyone (including Dobbs) has rightly condemned the U.S. Government for what it failed to do regarding said infected men. Properly understanding the difference -- and pointing that out -- is "minimizing" the US Government's role in the Tuskegee Experiment? Probably "racist" too, huh?

Posted by: JakeD | May 13, 2008 6:23 PM

...

I'll stand on what I posted. A definition of "minimize" is as follows: "represent as less significant or important." He called allowing human beings to suffer and die merely a "breach of medical ethics", and his rationale was that the government did not infect the original patients. That is representing their deaths and suffering as less significant or important, because (presumably) the government did not directly infect them.

Here's the thing -- he gave O'Donnell three Pinocchios for a statement that was arguably true (heavy on the arguably). One star, yeah, sure. Three? On a scale of zero to four, where four is Hillary's Bosnia sniper fire lie? I can't see it. But that forced him to justify the rating, which means he had to go into what happened and then, somehow, say it wasn't THAT bad.

He cited Tom Brokaw, but, as I pointed out, Brokaw's statement was _literally_ accurate. And he completely gives a pass to the government's consistently deceiving these people: not only did it not offer real treatment, it lied about what they were suffering from and deceived them -- by giving them aspirin -- into thinking they were receiving treatment for the malady the government conned them into thinking they were suffering.

Someone else pointed out that (a) the Post doesn't go around fact-checking how many Jews died in the Holocaust and (b) they would take Jewish sensitivity into account in reporting that, if they did. Dobbs has no sensitivity whatsover as to how wrong withholding treatment for suffering human beings; he calls it (relying on memory here) a "regrettable breach of medical ethics."

And there's no escaping that the study was, itself, racist, as it was a study in the progression of syphillis in the Negro male. As if it would be different in white males.

Put it this way -- if all you've got is, well, the government didn't stick a needle with syphilis into them, it just sat back and let them suffer and die when treatment was readily available -- you got nothing. That's as weak an excuse as, I was just following orders. And if you would not be so prone to split hairs over a similar incident where whites are the victim, yeah, you're racist.

So let's review:

1) The government, at a minimum, lied to people about their sickness

2) The government withheld treatment that could have alleviated their sickness

3) People suffered and died, including innocent women and children

4) Only blacks were selected, only blacks suffered in this fashion.

But -- BUT -- the Government did not stick a syphilis needle in people to infect them.

JakeD, what would YOU call this? A breach of medical ethics? Would you say that these people were victims of class, and not race? And where's the similar study, whose subjects were middle-class whites in, say, Kensington, MD?

I get you think people throw the word "racist" around freely. But what would you call this?

Posted by: gbooksdc | May 13, 2008 7:23 PM

...

I think I already answered that (on the prior thread), especially after the standard of care changed, the government doctors' conduct was -- at worst -- criminal negligence. Sorry you think the distinction between that and Dr. Mengele INTENTIONALLY INFECTING Jews is such a close call -- I would dare say you are "minimizing" those Nazi experiments and not being too "sensitive" yourself, but that's not the type of ad hominem argument I care to make.

Posted by: JakeD | May 13, 2008 7:39 PM

...

I rarely agree with any thing JakeD posts, but I think he's right about the Tuskegee Experiments. It does not minimize the horror and wrongness of what DID happen when you make factual statments about what DID NOT happen. Nobody was intentionally infected. Any one who says that people were is misrepresenting the facts, and should be called out on it.

Posted by: SonicJones | May 13, 2008 7:58 PM

Thanks (I guess).

Posted by: JakeD | May 13, 2008 8:07 PM

...

My reference to Mengele did not involve his "INTENTIONALLY INFECTING Jews" (your words). Far as I know, he did not infect anyone with anything. He DID perform some pretty horrific experiments on people.

But here's the salient point: "Mengele tried to prove that Noma was caused by racial inferiority." (wikipedia) I contend that that is not any different than "doctors" attempting to prove that syphilis has a different course of progression in blacks than in whites. Soooo -- in this regard, there's not a dime's worth of difference between Mengele and the Tuskegee doctors.

Criminal negligence (i.e., failure to act) is not applicable here, because there was an overt act -- lying and administering (essentially) placebos. Manslaughter, I think, although obviously the defense would be acting under color of governmental authority. But again -- doctors who did what Mengele* did were charged as war criminals performing medical experiments, without the subjects' consent, on prisoners of war and civilians of occupied countries. Several who were found guilty of this charge were executed.

As it happens, I cited Mengele because (a) it is apposite and (b) I consider the Nazis the "gold standard", if you will, of evil. Allowing people who are trusting you for care to suffer with syphilis, while lying to them about what they are suffering from and how you are treating them, is high 9s on the 0 to 10 scale of evil. It's hard to go beyond that. That takes a pretty depraved mind. And I think you should take a look at yourself, if you can look past all the evil that entailed _to parse a sentence_ as if this was some sort of academic exercise. I am sure the fact that you possess that ability does not bother you. I am proud to say it bothers ME, deeply, just like the tales of Jews being betrayed and murdered bother me. 'cause once you can compartmentalize that, you're not far away from minimizing it.

*Mengele himself was not charged, as he was presumed dead.

Posted by: gbooksdc | May 13, 2008 11:22 PM

...

I certainly am not the one "minimizing" anything. As SonicJones pointed out, the facts are simply the facts. Here's another FACT: Dr. Josef Mengele infected Jews with typhoid, etc.:

http://books.google.com/books?id=3vjtgh6fxs8C&pg=PA78&lpg=PA78&dq=%22Mengele+infected%22&source=web&ots=ydOwN31epi&sig=mTyURzLmXEUjke3683IGMYos84I&hl=en

Posted by: JakeD | May 14, 2008 10:33 AM

...

If you see this post, all I am asking is that you please reconsider your prior (what I could argue is "insensitive") insistence of equating "Dr." Mengele with the Tuskegee Experiment -- read this book "Children of the Flames" by Joe E. White which chronicles Mengele's notorious medical experiments on approximately THREE THOUSAND twins who passed through the Auschwitz death camp. Only a few of these twins survived and, later, they have told their story of how they were given special privileges in Auschwitz owing to Mengele's interest in twins, and how as a result they have suffered during the past sixty years, as the children who survived the still unknown and unexplained medical experiments and injections at the hands of Josef Mengele.

Keep in mind, also, that Mengele was only the most prominent Nazi "doctor" around, but many others PURPOSEFULLY INFECTED victims with malaria, Streptococcus, gas gangrene, and tetanus -- not to mention all the grisly deaths by freezing, mustard gas, sea water, and unspeakable sorts of horrors -- whether you like it or not, the Nazi Experiments are not apposite to the Tuskegee Experiment.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nazi_human_experimentation#Experiments

Posted by: JakeD | May 14, 2008 5:02 PM

Posted by: JakeD | May 15, 2008 12:11 PM | Report abuse

JakeD defends Tuskegee experiments by saying they weren't as bad as the Nazis. OK, now that you have your straw man argue away. Maybe you could grow up and admit both were evil, and Tuskegee is one of many blemishes in our great country's past. Face the truth instead of deflecting blame and playing down the situation.

Posted by: WTF | May 21, 2008 1:26 PM | Report abuse

From what I read in the article what the government did wasn't deplorable until after 1947. Sounds like from 1932 - 1946 they were just studying the effects of a common STD. After the treatment was readily available (1947)- that is when this became deplorable. My question is from 1932 - 1946 was any thing useful gained to help with the overall treatment and prevention of the disease or was it just a sick curiosity by gov't docs?

Posted by: Russ | May 21, 2008 2:04 PM | Report abuse

5 Pinocchio for the "Fact Checker" Michael Dobbs.

This article has to be the stupidest one ever on WP. I lost respect for Mr. Dobbs and his editors to publish such revisionist, callous, holocaust-ic and apologist account of arguably the most infamous biomedical research study in U.S. history. The discovery of this repulsive "study" led to the 1979 Belmont Report and establishment of the National Human Investigation Board, and the requirement for establishment of Institutional Review Boards.

Here are the basic facts of this deplorable "Study":

• 399 poor -- and mostly illiterate -- African American (no other race) sharecroppers were studied to observe the natural progression of the disease if left untreated.
• At the end of the "study", only 74 of the test subjects were still alive. 28 of the men had died directly of syphilis, 100 were dead of related complications, 40 of their wives had been infected, and 19 of their children had been born with congenital syphilis.
• "Study" was conducted without due care to its subjects. (Violation of most fundamental medical care/study)
• Individuals enrolled in the Syphilis "Study" did not give informed consent.
• Subjects were not informed of their diagnosis.
• Subjects were tricked to receive "free" medical treatment, rides to the clinic, meals and burial insurance in case of death in return for participating.
• By 1947 penicillin had become the standard treatment for syphilis. Rather than treat all syphilitic subjects with penicillin and close the study, or split off a control group for testing penicillin; the Tuskegee scientists withheld penicillin and information about penicillin, purely to continue to study how the disease spreads and kills.
• Participants were prevented from accessing syphilis treatment programs that were available to other people in the area.
• Wives, children and the community at large were exposed to genocidal level of danger (e.g. Wives and kids affected).
• Without treatment, syphilis leads to a chronic, painful and fatal multi-system disease.


Shame on you Mr. Dobbs! This is a black-eye on your journalist temperament.

Posted by: SHAME ON YOU MR. DOBBS | May 21, 2008 2:58 PM | Report abuse

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