Online Custom «Racism and Research» Essay Sample

Racism and Research


Physical investigation involving humans must correspond to the commonly recognized scholastic regulations based on a thorough cognition of the scientific data and other pertinent information on the results of the relevant laboratory assays. The duty of the doctor involved in medical research is to defend the existence, vitality, privacy, and virtue of the subject. The paper will discuss whether the Tuskegee study was therapeutic due to conventional principles stated above or sufficiently lacked ethic and moral components.

Tuskegee Trial

The primary purpose of the Tuskegee clinical trial was noble. Doctors wanted to understand how to treat syphilis among the poor black population. At first, the idea of the study was to see if it is better not to treat at all than to treat using mercury. Also, the purpose was to explore the different stages of the disease in hope to find a way to treat each of them. The plan was to follow the development of the disease within six months and then spend the available funds on treatment (Benedek 41).

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None of the persons involved in the experiment got any warning about the real attempt reason. Doctors said that African-Americans were treated from "bad blood". Locals referred "bad blood" as to diseases such as syphilis, anemia, and just fatigue. In fact, no treatments obtained. Those who agree to be "treated" had daily feeding and were provided with a funeral insurance in exchange for the consent to autopsy after death. Treatment was, in fact, an illusion. Moreover, the patients regularly underwent such a painful procedure as spinal tap. In that way, doctors monitored the progression of neurosyphilis in the brain and nervous system. Since the puncture was very painful, doctors called it “the last chance for a special free treatment” (Benedek 38).

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The people involved into the experiment were mainly farmers below the poverty line, almost all of whom were illiterate blacks. Segregation was everywhere. African-Americans did not allow to be in the places where white people were. If a state spent $65 on a white pupil in training a year as compared to only $7 spent on black grown-up male.

Nurse Eunice Rivers carefully monitored the experimental treatment. She viewed that none of the participants went to other doctors or received the treatment as outpatients. In fact, African-Americans had no chance to ask for help, because in the area of Tuskegee were only two hospitals, one of which was subordinated to the research institute conducting experience.

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Ethical Problems of Tuskegee Study

The issue was the very essence of the early research. Why did the study select African-Americans? This sample had no statistical or scientific reason. One can conclude that the choice of this social group was grounded on its lowest grade due to the theory of Social Darwinism. Therefore, the present experiment was a documented manifestation of segregation and inequality of rights of African-American population. In addition, the problem had another social side. African-Americans involved in the assay were easy to manipulate, because most of them were below the poverty line. Thus, even if we exclude the racist factor, it is clear that socio-economic segregation of blacks as the poorest group influenced the choice of people for the experiment (Alarc & Graciela 45).

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The research in the aftermath of the Great Depression and the World War II had the antihuman nature. The concept of race in this regard only reinforces the negative aspect of the experiment. Even the choice of white people for this study, the ultimate goal of which was registering changes without clinical treatment, is not justified. However, looking at the historical stages of racism and segregation, it is likely that such study would have gained more negative publicity if it was conducted with white Americans (Benedek 49).

Such research needed to be withdrawn immediate, without a possible modification. After the invention of penicillin and using it in medical practice, scant justification of clinical record changes in syphilis lost even a single scientific and medical component. Ethical component in this study was not a priori during the formation of contingent sampling. In addition, doctors manipulated the trust of patients choosing a black nurse as their mentor during the study. This game on psycho-emotional affinity of the identity of socioeconomic and racial groups only confirms the absence of moral principles of those who organized that study (Lombardo & Gregory 311).

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This case is a violation of ethical and moral principles in the field of applied medicine that needed considerable publicity. The case should be brought to the court to establish equality in the domain of multiracial society. However, according to the available data, none of the organizers of the experiment was punished, but instead continued their medical practice. The verdict on the financial compensation to the victims and covering their insurance do not establish justice until the initiators of that crime against people will not get appropriate punishment.

Outcomes of Tuskegee Experiment

The experiment lasted until 1972. Therefore, its duration was 40 years, twenty-five years after penicillin appeared. During this time, 28 test participants died of syphilis, and 100 more died from complications of syphilis. The survivors suffered from such terrible consequences of syphilis as vision loss, lameness, and total dementia. 40 women were infected with syphilis but received no treatment, and 19 children were born congenital syphilis in these families.

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Only in 1972, information about the case of Tuskegee leaked to the public press. It was a terrible scandal. Society outcried forcing the government to form a commission to review the study. For forty years, people deliberately concealed the truth about their disease and the treatment as well as about the true purpose of the experiment. During these years, none of them received any treatment of the disease although a cure in the form of penicillin was already available for twenty-five years.


Many scholars and human rights activists believe that the case of Tuskegee is one of the reasons why African-Americans do not trust American medicine and why they start seeking medical help when their condition is devastating. Also, it explains why African-Americans refuse to participate in clinical trials. In particular, in some communities, there are rumors that the US government “invented” AIDS to destroy the “color”. Tuskegee experiment lacked ethical and moral aspects and was a vivid example of segregation and racism.

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