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Public accountability and the Tuskegee syphilis experiments: A restorative justice approach.

Perkiss, Abigail
June 4, 2015

Source: (2008) Berkeley Journal of African-American Law & Policy. 10(1): 70-90.

On August 8, 1974, in the wake of the Watergate scandal and its incendiary aftermath, Richard Nixon resigned from
the office of President of the United States, leaving the federal government in crisis and demanding that the American
people question whether it was a man or a system that was deeply flawed. … “As I see it,” one participating physician
remarked, “we have no further interest in these patients until they die. … In particular, one case decided fourteen years
after the United States government commenced the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiments, set the standard for human subject
experimentation for the international community. … It was only then that the legacy of the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiments
was finally exposed and the federal government acknowledged its role in “the longest non-therapeutic experiment
on human beings in medical history. … In this essay I assert that a restorative justice approach is crucial to addressing
the injustice wreaked by the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiments. … The Health Service told the subjects that they were
being treated for “bad blood,” a colloquialism that could mean anything from venereal disease to anemia. … For that
finite period, the syphilis would go untreated and doctors would track the course of the illness. … First, the Nuremberg
Code calls for informed consent by a participant with the mental capacity to grant such consent. … The Tuskegee
Syphilis Experiments were conducted with little regard for the health and safety of the participants. (Author’s abstract)


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