Modern medical science often comes under scrutiny for carrying out experiments against innocent animals like rats, frogs, monkeys, etc. Animal rights activists claim that just because these species are not human, it does not give doctors and medical researchers the right to cut them open without any regard to the misery and pain they experience in the process.

As a person with a gentle heart, you must be astonished at the thought of someone electrifying or tearing open a live organism. What if I told you that some people in this world show such kind of heartless brutality to not only animals but also humans. Horrified? This story, filled with horror and brutality, might crumble your faith in humanity.

Discovery of a Dark Truth:

It was one fine Friday noon in October 2010 when Hillary Rodham Clinton, the then Secretary of State of United States Of America, along with Health and Human Services Secretary (Kathleen Sebelius) conducted a press conference to officially apologize to the people of Guatemala on behalf of the U.S. Government for a ‘crime against humanity’ that baffled the world to its very core. The apology was about the U.S. government-backed Syphilis program in Guatemala that was carried out from the year 1946 to 1948 to conduct medical research on the Sexually Transmitted Diseases.

These experiments were conducted under the supervision of Dr. John C. Cutler, an American physician, and medical researcher. During this unethical medical research, doctors infected around 5500 uninformed soldiers, mental patients, prisoners, and prostitutes with Syphilis and several other STDs. The so-called rationale behind deliberately spreading the disease was to examine the role of penicillin to prevent and even cure early syphilis infections. The researchers had difficulty growing the condition in the lab, and the tests conducted on rabbits and chimpanzees reaped no encouraging results regarding the influence of penicillin on humans.

Dr. John C. Cutler

Even though the crime in itself is heinous to its very core, what made the research even more unethical and horrendous was the fact that even after 1946-48, the Syphilis experiment caused well around 83 death of innocent Guatemalans, Dr. John C. Cutler went on to undertake another experiment of the sort called the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment.

To the horror of humanity itself, the uninformed subjects employed for this series of experimentation also included innocent children from government schools, orphanages, and rural towns. The horrors of these inhuman research came to light when Professor Riverby, a renowned medical historian hailing from the University of Pittsburgh, disclosed Dr. Cutler’s unpublished works in the university archives.

Moral Standing of Human Experimentation:

Many have debated the immorality of human experimentation; however, to conduct such dangerous and possibly fatal experiments without the lawful consent of the subject is an act beyond the limitations of moral-immoral discourse. This act against humanity is one of the worst unethical historical injustices ever recorded in medical studies history. The growth of civilization and culture in a community is judged by their treatment towards the vulnerable and the defenseless.

After the medical archives of John C. Cutler exposed the case, it is quite clear that the research team lacked any moral or ethical compass. Even after the case was uncovered, Dr. Cutler insisted on justifying the rationale of his research based on “service and the greater good of humanity.” This is the very man who, when conducted similar experiments in the U.S., asked for subjects’ consent. Treating the Guatemalans like sub-human disposables is an act that does not suit a medical practitioner.

Moreover, the reaction of the U.S. Government after the exposition of the experimentation also puts a question mark on the moral standing of the U.S. Government’s foreign ‘adventures.’ To top it all off, a mere apology forwarded by Washington further added insult to the injury of furious Guatemalans whose lives were torn apart forever.

Psoriasis and syphilis; lesions on face and body, 1866 Wellcome V0010104
By- Wikimedia Commons


Guatemala Syphilis Trials:

Apart from this hollow apology, the United States government did little to bring the culprits to justice. In 2015, around 775 victims and the relatives of the deceased victims filed a lawsuit against the experiment and the companies that supervised them, stating that these experiments exposed them or their family members to medical vulnerabilities and expenses in Guatemala without first seeking their knowledge or consent which is a gross human rights violation.

After much deliberations, in 2019, a U.S. federal judge in Maryland gave a verdict in favor of the victims, asking the pharmaceutical company Bristol-Myers Squibb, Johns Hopkins University, and the Rockefeller Foundation to pay a $1 billion lawsuit on account of their roles in the 1940s medical experiments. The victims have yet to receive reparations for the injustice they had to endure.


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