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US foundation, university, and drug company are sued for alleged role in Guatemala study

BMJ 2015; 350 doi: (Published 08 April 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;350:h1859
  1. Michael McCarthy
  1. 1Seattle

A $1bn (£0.7bn; €0.9bn) class action suit has been filed in a Maryland court against the Rockefeller Foundation, Johns Hopkins University, and Bristol-Myers Squibb for their alleged roles in a study on sexually transmitted infections conducted in Guatemala in the 1940s and 1950s.

The lawsuit alleges that physicians, scientists, and other employees of the foundation and the university helped run a notorious study conducted in Guatemala from 1945 to 1956 in which children, prison inmates, psychiatric patients, soldiers, and orphans were intentionally infected with syphilis, gonorrhea, chancroid, and other diseases. It alleges that Bristol-Myers Squibb is culpable because its predecessor companies supplied penicillin for use in the studies.

The 774 plaintiffs that filed the suit, in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, Maryland, on 1 April, included surviving study participants and their spouses, children, sexual partners, and descendants. The suit alleges that participants in the Guatemala experiment were not informed that they were being exposed to diseases and that the …

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