Ethical blind spots: John Cutler’s role in India and Tuskegee

Mario Vaz

DOI: 10.20529/IJME.2014.049


The Tuskegee experiment has become an essential case study in the discussion of medical research ethics. The lessons learnt from it continue to be debated and written about. Briefly, the Tuskegee experiment, carried out over three decades till the early 1970’s, was an observational study of African Americans who had syphilis. They were never told that they had the disease, nor were they provided with penicillin when the drug became available. The efficacy of penicillin in treating syphilis had already been established, initially among soldiers during World War II. The news of the Tuskegee experiment   gave rise to widespread outrage. It led to the formulation of the Belmont Report (1979) and President Clinton publicly apologised for the incident.

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