US Apologizes to Guatemala for Syphilis Experiments

A couple of people now have asked me to comment on the recent US apology for the syphilis experiments that took place in Guatemalan prisons during the 1940s. Initially I wasn’t going to do a video on it because while it is important, its really not the biggest news item of the day. But I am here to give my subscribers what they want so I am doing a video on it.

The United States has formally apologized for experiments conducted by US government researchers on Guatemalan prison inmates, women and mental patients with syphilis. The whole point of these tests was to test the new drug at the time, penicillin.

The process in which the experiment was carried out was that a syphilis infected prostitute was sent into the prison to have sex with prisoners. The medical staff would give the experimental penicillin to the infected men and then record the results. This was not limited to prisoners; the experiments also took place on the mentally ill in insane asylums as well as military recruits. In total, 696 men and women were exposed to the disease and then offered penicillin. The studies went on until 1948 and the records suggest that despite intentions not everyone was cured.

Hillary Clinton released this statement:

“The sexually transmitted disease inoculation study conducted from 1946-1948 in Guatemala was clearly unethical… 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 regret that it happened, and we apologize to all the individuals who were affected by such abhorrent research practices.”

This “outrage” is hardly a convincing emotion from the US government. This is the same government that conducted the Tuskegee syphilis experiments on African American men from 1932 to 1972. Many governments, not just the US, have a history of performing experiments on people. Most notably the Nazi doctors with concentration camp prisoners and the Japanese experimenting with biological weapons on the Chinese people and American POWs.

President Alvaro Colom of Guatemala said this:

“These should be considered crimes against humanity and Guatemala reserves the right to petition the relevant international court at an opportune time.”

Obviously everyone knows that these people will not be brought to justice. The Tuskegee people were not brought to justice, nor were those who harmed Native Americans through the state-sponsored terrorism of residential schools.

As much as reparation to the people of Guatemala is in order, they should be thankful that they even got an apology after 60 years. It took the Japanese 50 years to get an apology for the unnecessary atomic bombings of Nakasaki and Hiroshima.