Tag Archives | Guatemala

U.S. Reviews Syphilis Experiment In Guatemala: Researchers Knew It Was Unethical

Tuskeegee_studyAll too often groups of people are unknowingly infected with disease as a means of isolated experimentation. Earlier this week the Commision for the Study of Bioethical Issues reviewed the 1940s incident  where the U.S. government infected Guatemalan prisoners and patients with syphilis. Via Reuters:

U.S. government researchers must have known they were violating ethical standards by deliberately infecting Guatemalan prison inmates and mental patients with syphilis for an experiment in the 1940s, according to a U.S. presidential commission.

The U.S.-funded research in Guatemala did not treat participants as human beings, failing to even inform them they were taking part in research, as was the case for a similar study in the United States, the commission said on Monday.

The United States apologized last year for the experiment, which was meant to test the drug penicillin, after it was uncovered decades later by a college professor.

President Barack Obama’s Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues investigated the syphilis experiment and discussed its key findings in Washington on Monday.

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Guatemalans Sue U.S. Over Syphilis Experiments

Depression-era poster. Although penicillin was found to treat syphilis, many of the public who were experimented on did not receive treatment.

Depression-era STD education poster.

This seems like a classic tale in American history: Government finds a poverty-stricken community to perform experiments on, then years later the public realizes what happens and gets upset about. Well, it’s happened again. Via The American Lawyer:

A class action lawsuit on behalf of about 700 Guatemalans who were subjected to syphilis experiments by American doctors in the 1940s will be filed against the U.S. government in three days unless reparations of some kind are made to their families, plaintiffs attorneys said Tuesday.

The Obama administration apologized last October for U.S. government doctors infecting Guatemalans with the syphilis virus from 1946 to 1948 to study how the sexually transmitted disease is passed and whether penicillin treatment was effective.

The experiments came to light in 2009 through research by historian Susan Reverby, a professor of women and gender studies at Wellesley College in Massachusetts.

Because of the apology, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based Conrad & Scherer and Washington, D.C.-based Parker Wakeman Alonso notified Attorney General Eric Holder that he had until Friday to offer a way to settle claims before the 33-page lawsuit is filed in federal court.

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A New Mayan Apocalypse

Mayan Pyramid at El Mirador. Photo: Geoff Gallice (CC)

Mayan Pyramid at El Mirador. Photo: Geoff Gallice (CC)

Why don’t humans ever learn from their mistakes of the past? Is it ‘different this time’? The New York Times reports from Guatemala on the re-deforestation of the homeland of the Maya:

EL MIRADOR, Guatemala — Great sweeps of Guatemalan rain forest, once the cradle of one of the world’s great civilizations, are being razed to clear land for cattle-ranching drug barons.

Other parts of the Maya Biosphere Reserve, Central America’s largest protected area, have been burned down by small cities of squatters.

Looters and poachers, kept at bay when guerrilla armies roamed the region during the country’s 36-year civil war, ply their trades freely.

“There’s traffickers, cattle ranchers, loggers, poachers and looters,” said Richard D. Hansen, an American archaeologist who is leading the excavation of the earliest and largest Mayan city-state, El Mirador, in the northern tip of the reserve. “All the bad guys are lined up to destroy the reserve.

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Massive Guatemala Sinkhole (Photo)

This image is NOT a Photoshop alteration. This is a real sinkhole that spontaneously appeared in Zone 2 of Guatemala City due to tropical storm Agatha, and was posted to the Guatemalan government’s image feed:

Photo by Gobierno de Guatemala (CC)

Photo: Gobierno de Guatemala (CC)

How’d you like to have that just drop out from under you?

The roundness of the hole makes it all the more freakish, and I think we can probably count the seconds between now and when someone will say “aliens”, “end times”, “2012”, or “satellite weapon test” due to that one physical property of this crazy pit.

On a more serious note, this is just the most obvious sign of the destruction that was visited upon already impoverished Guatemala with the first big storm of the upcoming hurricane season in the Gulf. 30,000 people displaced from their homes, roughly 120,000 evacuated, and 93 dead. Does not bode well.

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