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Medical Experiments Done on African-Americans in America

Doctor injects subject w/saline

Doctor injects subject w/saline

Document from Tuskegee Syphilis Study, requesting that after test subjects die, an autopsy be performed, and the results sent to the National Institutes of Health

Document from Tuskegee Syphilis Study, requesting that after test subjects die, an autopsy be performed, and the results sent to the National Institutes of Health


The Government

Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities, Center for Disease Control and Prevention mission’s statement states, “The Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities (OMHD) aims to accelerate CDC’s health impact in the U.S population and to eliminate health disparities for vulnerable populations as defined by race/ethnicity, socio-economic status, geography, gender, age, disability status, risk status related to sex and gender, and among other populations identified to be at-risk for health disparities.”

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is the United States government’s principal agency for protecting the health of all Americans and providing essential human services, especially for those who are least able to help themselves.” Once known as the Department of Education and Welfare, HHS was renamed in 1979. HHS is managed by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, who is appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate. The United States Public Health Service (PHS) is the main division of the HHS. Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities, Center for Disease Control and Prevention are departments under HHS.

It is not very comforting to African-Americans since that the very agencies assigned with protecting their health are guilt of human experimentation. The most famous experiment lasted 40 years. The resulting disease at only infected the original test subjects, but their wives and children were infected.

Washington Evening Star newspaper ran this headline on its front page: "Syphilis Patients Died Untreated." "For 40 years, the U.S. Public Health Service has conducted a study in which human guinea pigs, not given proper treatment, have died of syphilis and its side effects," Associated Press reporter Jean Heller wrote on July 25, 1972. "The study was conducted to determine from autopsies what the disease does to the human body." The Public Health Service, working with the Tuskegee Institute, began the study in 1932. For 40 years 400 men were told they were being treated for “bad blood.” Bad blood could include anything - syphilis, anemia and fatigue. The men were compensated with free medical exams, free meals and free burial insurance, but not penicillin which would have cured the diseasein 1947. The experimentation became known as the Tuskegee Syphilis Study. The experimentation was not the first or the last conducted on African-Americans.

Of course African-Americans were not the only experimentation subjects. A simple search of the internet provides many documented human experiments such as those on Native Americans. The Department of Health and Human Services is responsible for health care services to American Indians and Alaska Natives as the Indian Health Service (IHS). This hubs focus is on African-Americans.

Prejudices in America

African-Americans make up 13% of the population of the United States. 2000 United States Census states that approximately 13 million people. African-Americans are a major influence on the United States. Some were brought by force in slavery and others immigrated voluntarily. The prejudices of slavery still remain into this present century, even with the election of the first bi-racial president. President Barack Obama like other African-Americans is considered Blacks. Any person with one drop of Black blood is considered as Black. The United States is governed by race and skin pigmentation. The one-drop rule was actually adopted into law in the twentieth century – first state was Tennessee in 1910 and in Virginia under the Racial Integrity Act of 1924.

African-Americans account for only 13% of the population, but have a higher rate of cancer, HIV/Aids, diabetes, renal disease, septicemia, heart disease and strokes. Several studies conclude African-Americans don’t have access to the health care of whites. They have a distrust related to the history of slavery. The biggie – African-Americans were experiment health subjects against their will and/or full consent.

According to Heart Health on June 2011, Black heart patients less likely to get top hospital care Study: Blacks don't get life-saving heart procedures that white counterparts get. The article stated that past studies found that African Americans more often do not receive commonly endorsed heart attack therapies that are newer or expensive. That includes prescriptions for cholesterol-lowering statin drugs, and invasive procedures like angioplasty.

Harriet A. Washington wrote her 2007 book Medical Apartheid The Dark History of Medical Experiments on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present, accounts of Thomas Jefferson exposing hundreds of slaves to an untried smallpox vaccine before using it on whites.

Statue at Central Park, NY

Statue at Central Park, NY


The Holocaust

The Father of American gynecology, James Marion Sims was a surgical pioneer. Sims received many honors and awards in the United States and Europe. His bronze statue can be found on the peripheral wall of Central Park, at Fifth Avenue and 103rd Street, opposite the New York Academy of Medicine. His was the first statue in the United States depicting a physician. Sims used his perception to remedy a terrifying complication of childbirth. Caused by prolonged labor, the disorder is known as the vesicovaginal fistulas, connections develop between a woman's bladder and vagina or intestines and vagina. That’s a good thing.

James Marion Sims believed in slavery, and owned slaves. He took the Hippocratic Oath historically taken by doctors swearing to practice medicine ethically. When Sims needed fistula patients, he just bought or rented the slaves from their owners. Sims behavior was unethical because all the slave women underwent multiple procedures without anesthesia, which was available. Sims documented his procedures including operating on one woman 30 times without anesthesia. Dr. Graham J. Barker-Benfield first wrote that Sims used slaves as guinea pigs in his 1968 dissertation, when he was at the University of California at Los Angeles.

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A supporter of Sims, Dr. Deborah Kuhn McGregor, a historian at the University of Illinois at Springfield uses Sims's story in her book ''Sexual Surgery and the Origins of Gynecology'' to discuss the complex ways that race and sex influence medical practice. Dr. L. Lewis Wall, a Washington University surgeon has a special reason for coming to Sims's defense. He routinely travels to Africa to repair vesicovaginal fistulas. He founded the Worldwide Fund for Mothers Injured in Childbirth ( Dr Wall does acknowledge the contributions of at least three of the slave women by saying someone should build a statue to Lucy, Anarcha and Betsy. Really - a statue? How about compensation to the family? After suffering unimaginable pain, many lost their lives to infection.

The use of slaves for medical experimentation was preventable because significant advances in medical care were made in the 19th century by Southern physicians who experimented in an ethical manner using white women from whom they obtained informed consents.

Georgia born Dr. Thomas Hamilton experimented on slaves to find a treatment for heatstroke. Hamilton placed a Black male in pit with only his head above ground. The pit was heated to high temperatures. The purpose of the experiment was to witness how long the man could tolerate the high temperatures. Hamilton was a land owner and wanted to know how long he could work his slaves in the hot Georgia heat.

During the Holocaust which America condemns scientists carried out so-called freezing experiments using prisoners to find an effective treatment for hypothermia. Dr. Hamilton’s experiments were done in the 1850’s long before the World War II Holocaust. The horrifying medical experiments performed slaves and their children all in the name of scientific progress.


Radiation Experiments on Children

Radiation Experiments

In an ironic twist, Joshua Lyles, an African American, is attributed with founding one of the earliest of Indiana’s black settlements, Lyles Station, Indiana. The Agricultural Schedule for the 1850 census indicates that only about 10 years after his family’s arrival in Indiana, Joshua Lyles owned 60 acres of improved land, 260 acres of unimproved land. After the Civil War, Joshua Lyles donated land to the Airline Railroad, in exchange for the railroad building a train station, providing passenger and mail service to the settlement.

The Antelope Valley News reported the early radiation experiments conducted in 1927 on Black children at Lyles Station, Indiana. Lyles Consolidated School was the third school to be located in Lyles Station. It was in continued serve from 1919 until 1958. There are documentations that the experimentation on one victim Vertus Hardiman took off his scalp.

Elmer Allen was a 36-year-old African-American railroad porter in 1947. He went to the hospital, three days later his left leg was amputated for pre-existing bone cancer. What really happened? Doctors injected plutonium into Allen’s left leg in 1947 then amputated to test tissues samples. That was after WW II and the Nazis. What’s the proof? Scientists called Elmer Allen to the Argonne National Laboratory. Argonne National Laboratory is the first science and engineering research national laboratory in the United States since 1946. It is managed for the United States Department of Energy by UChicago Argonne, LLC, which is composed of the University of Chicago and Jacobs Engineering Group Inc. It was 1973 and Elmer Allen was given a full body radiation scan. He had to provide urine for analyzes of plutonium levels.

University of Cincinnati and Dr. Eugene Saenger, radiologist and an expert in nuclear medicine whose research contributed to the establishment of radiation safety standards for patients and medical personnel , conducted experiments from 1960-1971. The procedures used were discontinued as therapy in the 1960s. Why was Saenger still experimenting into the 1970s? 88 cancer patients were exposed to whole body radiation - exposure to 100 rads of whole body radiation (about 7,500 chest X-rays). Several were poor African-Americans at Cincinnati General Hospital like Amelia Jackson. Mrs. Jackson bled, vomited and was in pain for days before she died. At this stage of dying, patients are offered humane treatment such as hospice and pain medication for comfort. These patients got none of that because the scientists did not want the drugs to interfere with their data collection. Court papers also documented that those informed consents allegedly signed by the test subjects had forged signatures.

A class-action suit was filed on behalf of the surviving families against the University of Cincinnati, Dr. Eugene Saenger, the federal government and the City of Cincinnati. The federal government was included because it was a Pentagon-sponsored radiation experiment. The experiment was doneto answer a question: In the event of a nuclear explosion, how much radiation could a soldier withstand before becoming disabled or disoriented? The agony for the test subjects was worth a settlement in 1999, most families were awarded $50,978 each, a dozen others $85,318.


The adjective Machiavellian is a derogatory term describing someone who aims to deceive and manipulate others for personal advantage. That term certainly fix the doctors featured in this hub. Some would hold that the experimentation on African-American was for the greater good - where "the end justifies the means". That’s the argument Dr. Wall gave for the atrocious acts Dr. Sims performed. Providing a statue should be enough for the agony the slave women endured. Perhaps the Hippocrates Oath – do no harm - does not apply to second class citizens when the act benefits first class citizens. With that kind of logic it’s no wonder experimentation continued today. Actually the classical Oath makes no mention of current issues as the ethics of experimentation, team care, or a doctor's social or legal responsibilities. So does the old adage apply, if it’s not documented it doesn’t matter? Unethical conduct that goes on happens because there are little or no sanctions. Doctors overlook transgressions — bending a rule to help a colleague, overlooking information that might damage the reputation — because it is in their interest to do so. Medical researchers who violate ethical research standards often gain professional prominence, plus the financial rewards. Much of the research is government funded, so African-Americans tend not to believe government bureaucrats or the medical profession who talk about "No priority is more important than the protection of patients.



dashingclaire (author) from United States on June 28, 2011:

Minnetonka Twin don't be embarrassed for being white. Use the information to educate, enlighten, improve and be a good example. Spread the word with articles like this. There's a wealth of hubs right here. Thanks for taking the step to leave a comment.

Linda Rogers from Minnesota on June 28, 2011:

I find it so sickening that this Sims guy would get a statue and praise for the pain he caused. We still have such a long way to go in this country. Thanks for a very well-written and eye opening article. It makes me embarrassed to be born white.

dashingclaire (author) from United States on June 28, 2011:

Why should we be satisfied with a statue for the monstrous acts and murders that occurred when other groups get monuments, museums and compensation? Thousands of slaves used for experiments and forced labor were dropped in unmarked graves and/or cremated. Radiation experiments were done on children that left never healing wounds on their heads until the day they died. While white women have had to demand freedom from compulsory motherhood, black women have had to fight for their right to not have sterilization forced on them or unsafe birth control. This is America and still African-Americans can’t trust health care, even with a Black man as President.

Thanks for the informative comment BkCreative and the rating

BkCreative from Brooklyn, New York City on June 28, 2011:

Unfortunately so very true. I remember hearing all the stories from my elders who would all be well over 100 (my grandmother would be 150) - about how the various hospitals told them they must have all sorts of surgery. My uncle was in his 50 with headaches and was told at the (segregated) clinic that he would have to immediately undergo brain surgery because of a tumor or he would die. He refused and lived another 30 years. The general consensus with my elders was to stay as far away from medicine as possible and return to a reliance of foods and herbs which worked.

Medicine in this country continues to be designed for white males only and I stay as far away as possible. Especially after visiting doctors in Beijing and seeing that 100% accurate diagnosis can be done by three fingers to the pulse and a look at the tongue - nothing invasive.

Our doctors in the US do not even take into account race, ethncity, gender, blood type, prevention, nutrition etc. I welcome the massive influx of foreign doctors here in NYC because they take into account nutrition and ancient remedies while this country is pushing toxic drugs.

Thanks for a hub that it always timely. We cannot continue to ignore history - when we do it is to our detriment and in this case a detriment to our health.

Rated up!

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