Reading and learning about the Tuskegee Experiment, this has risen up a very important question. Physicians swear by the Hippocratic Oath (“First do no harm”). Were the health professionals who were involved in the Tuskegee Syphilis Study breaking this Oath? After learning about the Tuskegee Experiment, it has come clear that the scientist and doctors that were involved in this experiment were however not following hippocratic oath and not being ethical because they refused to give treatment to patients when it was available and refused to tell the patients what they were being tested for.
When a doctor or anyone going into a medical field they have to swear by the hippocratic oath. Now what is the hippocratic oath? The hippocratic oath is an oath taken by physicians and other medicine majors in which they promise to benefit their patient and do anything in their will to help them. This term came from a Greek physician named Hippocrates. The hippocratic oath is important because it shows what doctors and other medical field related jobs, believe should be the goal for their patients. The Tuskegee Experiment was done to African American males from the time period of 1932-1972 by Doctors from the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS) and the Tuskegee institute. All the men included in this study, were never told that they were being experimented on for syphilis many died without getting treated,not when there was a treatment available at the time. This experiment did not follow the hippocratic oath because later on during the experiment in 1945, Penicillin was opted as an option to treat and cure Syphilis. In the Tuskegee website they state , “ 1947 USPHS establishes “Rapid Treatment Centers” to treat syphilis; men in study are not treated, but syphilis declines.” ( Us Public Health Service Syphilis Study at Tuskegee). This is fairly important because as you can see, they did not follow Hippocratic oath. In the hippocratic oath they promise and come to agreement to only benefit the patient and do no harm to them. However, in this case they are harming them because they are neglecting any possible treatment in order to benefit their own research and benefit the doctors. There is a cure and a great possibility of a total recovery from syphilis however the doctors and scientist decided not to give these patients the opportunity to get better and recover from syphilis, instead what they did is watch them suffer and die over the years and become selfish in order to gain more data on this experiment. It is completely unethical to withhold any treatment from a patient because these patients have the right to know that whatever they have in this case syphilis can be treated and cured. This is also unethical because they are violating one of the four principles of ethics which is Principle of beneficence because they are doing no good to the patient withholding treatment.They are just causing more and more damage until the damage is irreversible, and there’s nothing that can be done.
Additionally in another article released by History, they explain how these people who were being tested on weren’t being told the whole truth. They explain “The men in the study had syphilis, a sexually transmitted infection, but didn’t know it. Instead they were told they had “bad blood” and given placebos, even after the disease became treatable with penicillin in the 1940s” (Tuskegee Experiment: The Infamous Syphilis Study). This reiterates my claim that the scientist and doctors were not following hippocratic oath because if you are only trying to make your patients life better you would be totally upfront with them and wouldn’t want them to know all the truth in order for them to trust you and in order for them to feel in control of their body and their life with syphilis. The whole purpose of the hippocratic oath is in order to make sure that the patient feels like they are in control and for them to feel that they are safe and are being treated how they deserve and ae receiving maximum benefits. The men in this study were promised freer health care, free medical exams, free meals, and burial insurance. This lead to them not questioning anything and just going along with whatever the doctors and scientist told them to do because they were receiving these benefits from the experiment. They were totally blind and ignorant to the fact that they were being treated unfairly and being treated as if they were not human. Not telling the men that they were being tested for syphilis is unethical as well because they are totally ignoring the fact that they should respect the men in the experiment and give them intel into what they were being tested for. It would only be reasonable and fair to do it this way.
In conclusion the Tuskegee Experiment was not following hippocratic oath and was unethical because the people in the experiment were not told what they were being tested for and when the time came and there was as treatment available they did not make it accessible and a choice for the patients. It was unethical to keep such a big life changing decision from then, and completely goes against the oath and instead inflicts harm onto the patients. The Tuskegee Study was a complete and utter terrible experiment in which lots of people died to due to the lack of treat and lots of ignorance.
Nix, Elizabeth. “Tuskegee Experiment: The Infamous Syphilis Study.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 16 May 2017, www.history.com/news/the-infamous-40-year-tuskegee-study.
“U.S. Public Health Service Syphilis Study at Tuskegee.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 30 Aug. 2017, www.cdc.gov/tuskegee/timeline.htm.
“The Hippocratic Oath.” Hilary Costello, hilarycostello.com/product/thehippocraticoath/.Tags: #healthandbioscience Life Academy of Health and Bioscience