Getting ethics into practice: Tuskegee was bad enough

BMJ 2004; 329 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.329.7464.513 (Published 26 August 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;329:513
  1. Hilary Curtis (hilary{at}regordane.net), freelance consultant on HIV/AIDS and sexual health
  1. London NW6 7HF

    EDITOR—Parker wrote about getting medical ethics into practice.1 Atrocious as it was, the Tuskegee experiment as I understand it did not entail infecting anyone with syphilis. Rather, a group of poor and poorly educated African Americans (not prisoners) who had syphilis were left untreated and in some cases denied treatment for other intercurrent infections as well.

    Tuskegee has cast a long shadow. Even today, conspiracy theories about the origins of HIV and AIDS may be best understood in terms of a legacy of mistrust about the motives of government health officials. Hence it is important not to spread further misinformation about this dark episode in the history of the US public health service.


    • Competing interests None declared.


    1. 1.
    View Abstract

    Log in

    Log in through your institution


    * For online subscription