Five years ago I reported on how the US Public Health Service under the leadership of Dr. John Cutler conducted clearly unethical and dangerous syphilis experiments in Guatemala in the mid-40s.


This was the US Public Health Service “study” to determine the prophylactic capabilities of penicillin. These studies were done on Guatemalan soldiers and prisoners.

According to a recent AFP report, Guatemala is now considering compensation for a family of three people who were victims of the US government experiments.

Vice President Alfonso Fuentes said, “They have been heard, and what they are asking for is some form of damages. ” The government is now determining what form of reparations could be provided.

Wellesley College professor, Susan M. Reverby published her findings on the syphilis experiments in 2010.

After the “cat was out of the bag”, President Obama in Nov. 2010 ordered Dr. Amy Gutmann, Chair of the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues to look into a couple of areas of concern.

First, wanting to be assured that current rules for research participants protect people from harm or unethical treatment, he has asked Gutmann to do a thorough review of human subject’s protection to determine if Federal regulations and international standards adequately guard the health and well-being of participants in scientific studies, both here and abroad, supported by the Federal Government.

Second, Mr. Obama asked Dr. Gutmann to oversee a thorough fact-finding investigation into the specifics of the U.S. Public Health Service Sexually Transmitted Diseases Inoculation Study.

In early 2011, Despite the 1,000-plus rules and regulations established to prevent abuses like the Tuskegee and the Guatemalan syphilis experiments, a panel of bioethicists that came to Washington to speak and said these atrocities could happen again.

Throughout the globe, over 1,000 rules and guidelines have been enacted to protect against this type of violation of human rights. Any study in the United States that even remotely has a connection with the federal government; studies by federal scientists, studies funded by Washington or studies where a product requires a federal agency approval has numerous regulations that must be followed.

However, it was pointed out that ethical regulations between different federal agencies vary and a study that does not require any federal oversight, an unethical study could be done.

Though the experts say that it is a vast improvement over the past, there is no guarantee that it couldn’t happen again.

As one panelist pointed out, “We have a leaky system”.

Last April, a $1 billion lawsuit was filed in the U.S. on behalf of 774 plaintiffs against Johns Hopkins University and the Rockefeller Foundation for the Guatemala experiments