Genetic Engineering, Humans

Secret Experiments – Unethical Projects for the ‘Greater Good’

Many immoral experiments have been conducted for research, to test medications or even just out of sheer curiosity. The experiments often violate the basic human rights of the victims, and can even affect their descendants in some cases.

The Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male

In Tuskegee, Alabama, between 1932 and 1972, approximately 399 poor and mostly illiterate African American sharecroppers infected with syphilis, were observed so researchers could understand more about the fatal progression of the disease. All the men were denied treatment, many misled to believe that they were affected with ‘bad blood.’ They were promised free medical treatment, meals, transportation to and from clinics and burial insurance in case of death, in return for their participation in the study.

At the beginning of the study, treatment for syphilis was unsure and possibly toxic, and researchers also wanted to observe whether patients were better off without being treated. At the end of the experiment all but 74 participants had passed away; 28 had died directly from syphilis and 100 from complications caused by the disease. The illness had also been passed on to 40 of the men’s wives and 19 children had been born with congenital syphilis. One advantage of the Tuskegee study is that it led to changes being put in place to protect patients that are involved in clinical studies.

The Aversion Project

As part of a top secret program to root out homosexuality, the South African apartheid army forced white lesbian and gay soldiers to undergo ‘sexual reassignment’ during the 1970s and 1980s. The process began with the army psychiatrists and chaplains, who were responsible for ferreting out any members that were believed to be homosexual. These patients were sent discreetly to military wards, where they were attempts to ‘cure’ them using drugs, shock or aversion therapy, hormone treatment, and other radical methods. Those that were deemed ‘incurable’ were chemically castrated or forced to undergo a sex change. Most of the victims were young males, between the ages of 16 and 24, that had been recruited by the apartheid army. Based on the surgeons’ estimates, there were as many as 900 operations performed on these young soldiers.

The Monster Study

In 1939, Wendell Johnson began an experiment which involved stuttering at the University of Iowa. It was called ‘The Monster Study,’ by his colleagues, because of the lengths to which the researcher was willing to go to for experimentation purposes. 22 orphans were divided into two groups; one half were given positive speech therapy and praised for their fluency, while the rest of the children were given negative speech therapy and were belittled for each mistake they made when speaking, as well as being told they were stutterers. The abuse caused several of the children that had previously spoken normally to develop speech impediments and suffer from ongoing psychological effects. In 2001, The University of Iowa issued a public apology for the experiments.

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