by Greg Campbell | April 3, 2015 10:49 pm
Medical history is littered with unethical behavior and the plaintiffs in a new lawsuit hope to shine a light on another alleged blight on medical history. According to a report from the Daily Mail, 750 plaintiffs are suing Johns Hopkins for having allegedly approved the deliberate infection of Guatemalans with syphilis in the mid-twentieth century.
The victims of a horrific medical experiment run by the United States in Guatemala that deliberately infected individuals with syphilis in order to test drugs and study the disease are now suing Johns Hopkins University.
The lawsuit, which has 750 plantiffs and includes victims and their families, is seeking $1billion, claiming that officials from Hopkins approved the study at the time and even helped to plan and monitor it as it ran from 1945 to 1956.
The few victims who are still alive were almost all children when they were unknowingly infected, and many among them were orphans.
In the aftermath of the experiment, some of the individuals died of syphilis, with open sores covering their bodies, while those who did survive claim they passed the disease down to their children, ending up with babies that were born blind, severely handicapped, and, in at least one case, without a brain.
It is estimated approximately 700 people were infected with the disease, and of the roughly 75% who were treated, only 25% were reported to have completed their treatment.
Marta Orellana was just 9-years-old when one day at the orphanage she was ordered to go to the infirmary.
She was told the lie down and spread her legs, which she resisted at first, but eventually succumbed to the doctors around her.
At that point she claims that men with gauze or cotton on their fingers penetrated her, infecting her with syphilis.
A few weeks later they called her in to take fluid from her spine, and she says when she turned around to look it was yellow.
Even after the study ended she recalls one instance in which she saw one of her doctors and was convinced he was going to kidnap her to continue studying her.
In addition to orphans, soldiers, prisoners, mental patients and prostitutes were also sought out for the study.
Prostitutes in particular, who would be injected with the disease and then sent to sleep with prisoners.
Marta Cesarea Pérez Ruiz did not get infected with the disease during the experiemnt, but her husband did, and it caused major problems with two of their children when he passed it along to her.
One was born without a brain, while another was born with syphilis which was left untreated, and is now severely handicapped.
Another woman, Victoria, was born blind, which she believes to be a result of her father having been infected with the disease and, again, not having been treated when she was born with syphilis.
Federico Mesa, like Orellana, is one of the few original patients still alive.
He was a solider at the time he was first infected, and acknowledges that he infected his wife and others with the disease.
He was injected with the disease he claims and subjected to numerous tests, and never once told what any of them were for.
The United States government only admitted to this experiment in 2010, which was run by Dr. John Cutler, also known for his infamous experiment in Tuskegee, Alabama.
In that study, conducted between 1932 and 1972, Dr. Cutler and the US Public Health Service found African-American men in Alabama who had syphilis and claimed they were treating them for the disease, when they were not in fact doing so but rather studying how it progressed.
They also unknowingly infected some men with syphilis who did not have the disease.
Dr. Cutler defended the experiment even after public outcry had shut it down, saying in 1993: ‘It was important that they were supposedly untreated, and it would be undesirable to go ahead and use large amounts of penicillin to treat the disease, because you’d interfere with the study.’
He would at one point in his career be appointed assistant Surgeon General of the United States.
In the end, the experiment resulted in the death of at least 83 individuals from syphilis.
In 1974, a $10million settlement was awarded along with lifetime medical benefits and burial services to all living participants.
Those benefits later grew to include all direct family members of victims in 1975.
If these allegations are true, this is certainly a sad end to a dark chapter.
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