Intended for healthcare professionals


President Obama apologises to Guatemala over 1940s syphilis study

BMJ 2010; 341 doi: (Published 04 October 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;341:c5494
  1. Janice Hopkins Tanne
  1. 1New York

President Barack Obama has expressed his deep regret to Álvaro Colon, president of Guatemala, about a 1940s study in which 696 Guatemalans were deliberately infected with syphilis. The president extended his apologies to President Colon and to all those who had been affected.

The US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, and the secretary of health and human services, Kathleen Sebelius, issued a joint public statement saying that the study was “clearly unethical.” Participants had been infected with syphilis to see whether penicillin could be used immediately after sex to prevent infection.

In their statement Ms Clinton and Ms Sebelius said, “Although these events occurred more than 64 years ago, we are outraged that such reprehensible research could have occurred under the guise of public health. We deeply …

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