There were reports through all sorts of sources on Friday discussing an experiment by American Scientists in the 1940’s: the purpose was to test whether penicillin would prevent/cure syphilis. So, naturally, American scientists used individuals from a third world country (in this case, Guatemala) as guinea pigs: they used prostitutes to infect prisoners and people in insane asylums with syphilis, and later offered them penicillin to see if it would cure them. From what’s come to light thus far, it seems that the results were inconclusive. Meanwhile, 696 men and women were exposed to syphilis, and it is unclear whether all of them were cured.
One article does state the prisoners were unaware they were part of an experiment, although I do find it a little humorous (politically incorrect?) that they used prostitutes….I guess this is how they keep the prisoners from knowing they are getting infected with something…instead of an injection, let us bring women to sexually deprived prisoners and see if they’ll take the bait. I digress.
Although the new discovery of this research has brought to light questionable research methods, and has led to discussions about ethics in the research field, there’s another topic I find interesting: diplomatic apologies.
Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, as well as President Obama, have both offered apologies for what happened sixty years ago. As “Tom” states: “I suppose it bothers me a lot more because it was so recent. When people get all lathered up over something 300, 500, or 1000 years ago, I find myself saying the fog of history really does make it a perilous endeavor to pass fair judgment from afar. But for crying out loud, this is well within the remembered lifetimes of many citizens both here and there.”
This is where I start to over-analyze.
On the one hand, it seems only fair that someone should be held accountable for what happened, and that the people affected receive some sort of compensation for what was done to them (the government of Guatemala has already requested compensation for the victims).
On the other hand, how long can you hold an organization accountable for something that was done by prior administrations? I guess as a government, or any organization that has transitional leadership, they are always accountable for any actions done under their name, but it also strikes me as unfair to have to keep apologizing over and over again for something you had no control over (I’m taking this into a general context; the United States has only barely apologized for this incident). For example, Germany will always be made to feel like crap because of what Hitler did. I’m sure most Germans today are as disgusted with Hitler’s actions as everyone else, yet they will always be held responsible for what happened years ago. The Guatemalan government is accusing the United States of crimes against humanity, and is “reserving the right to denounce [the United States] in an international court.”
I think I agree with Tom that maybe these events are a little worse because they are fairly recent. I wonder if this news would have had less of an impact on news stories if it had happened 100 or 200 years ago, although I think both governments would still be playing the diplomatic dance and giving the “I’m sorry” and “I’m outraged” statements. I question how much of this is done to save face, and how much is because either party is really concerned with what happened.
Eh, I might not be making sense, and I’m definitely over analyzing, so I’ll leave it at this :)