In 2005, Professor Susan Reverby made a shocking discovery. Between 1946 and 1948, the U.S. Public Health Service, with the blessing of Guatemalan officials, deliberately exposed 1,300 Guatemalans to syphilis and other sexually transmitted diseases. 83 people may have died as a result. How did the Guatemala Syphilis Scandal happen? And why does new evidence indicate that the experiments were “more shocking than was previously known?”
Dr. John Cutler & the Guatemala Syphilis Experiment?
Dr. John Cutler was a surgeon and acting chief of the U.S. Public Health Service’s venereal disease program. At one time, he was viewed as a respectable doctor and even rose to the rank of Assistant Surgeon General under President Eisenhower. Now, after being tied to the Tuskegee syphilis experiment as well as the Guatemala syphilis experiment, he is considered a monster.
Starting in 1946, Dr. Cutler and his researchers oversaw the deliberate infection of 1,300 Guatemalans with syphilis, gonorrhea, and chancroid. This was accomplished by paying prostitutes to sleep with prisoners as well as through direct inoculations. The goal, while somewhat unclear, seems to have been to determine the efficacy of penicillin in dealing with the various venereal diseases. While some Guatemalan officials knowingly participated in the conspiracy, they were not always privy to the experiment’s details. The so-called Guatemala syphilis experiments ended in 1948, due to increasing gossip about the study as well as difficulties in obtaining adequate amounts of penicillin.
News on the Guatemala Syphilis Scandal?
Recently, the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues, which had been tasked to investigate the experiments, announced its findings. Out of the 1,300 infected people, only 700 received treatment. It is unknown how many people died thanks to the experiment but at least 83 were deceased by 1953.
The Commission, which has yet to release its full report, also announced some particularly disturbing details. None of the victims gave their informed consent to participate in the project. Also, some of the subjects were treated in horrific fashion, including one terminally-ill woman who was “infected…with gonorrhea in her eyes and elsewhere.”
Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis
Unfortunately, there is no turning back the clock. Dr. Cutler’s experiments, which came in the wake of the horrific Nazi experiments, are a permanent part of American history, one that all of us wish we could forget.