Bad Blood: the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment

1709 words 7 pages


Dr. Bradley Moody
PUAD 6010

22 November 2004

The book BAD BLOOD: THE TUSKEGEE SYPHILIS EXPERIMENT by James H. Jones was a very powerful compilation of years of astounding research, numerous interviews, and some very interesting positions on the ethical and moral issues associated with the study of human beings under the Public Health Service (PHS). "The Tuskegee study had nothing to do with treatment … it was a nontherapeutic experiment, aimed at compiling data on the effects of the spontaneous evolution of syphilis in black males" (Jones pg. 2). Jones is very opinionated throughout the book; however, he carefully documents the foundation of
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Dr. Oliver Clarence Wenger, who was in charge of the Mississippi Wassermann survey, believed there was a cure, but that the cure was too costly (Jones pg. 57). The Wasserman test was a pigment fixation test that was developed in 1907 and was instrumental in identifying syphilis. Dr. John R. Heller, a retired PHS officer who had served as the director of the division of venereal disease between 1943 and 1948, was quick to point out that there were never any ethical questions raised, but that it was an experiment with great expectations (Jones pg. 144). Jones' draws the reader into understanding there may have been reasons, although questionable, as to why the experiment was allowed to continue, and why so many involved never questioned ethics. As the one corner stone to the experiment, Nurse Eunice Rivers', a black nurse employed by the PHS to keep track of the participants in the Tuskegee Study, never questioned the experiment because she knew of the Oslo Study which studied the effects of Syphilis in white males. "This is the way I saw it: that they were studying the Negro just like they were studying the white man, see, making a comparison" said Nurse Rivers in an interview years later with Jones (Jones pg. 167). As Jones' makes a great transition from one viewpoint to the other, the reader is bound to continue, trying to find out if there are other viewpoints that may give an ethical reasoning to the Tuskegee Study. The flow of the book, although


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