U.S. apologizes to Guatemala

Sixty-four years after it sent research teams into the Central American nation of Guatemala and used the population there as guinea pigs in a study of venereal diseases, the government of the United States last week issued an official apology.

The apology was for a 1946-48 research study that involved purposeful infection of people in Guatemala with sexually transmitted diseases such as syphillis.

The U.S. study began only a year after similar studies by Nazi "doctors" came to a halt as a network of concentration camps across Europe was shut down at the end of the World War II.

A statement issued Oct. 1 by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius called the action "reprehensible."

"We deeply regret that it happened, and we apologize to all the individuals who were affected by such abhorrent research practices," their statement said. "The conduct exhibited during the study does not represent the values of the United States, or our commitment to human dignity and great respect for the people of Guatemala."

Late Friday, the White House said President Obama planned to call Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom to personally apologize for American scientists deliberately infecting Guatemalan prisoners with syphilis.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters that the news of the 1946-48 events was "shocking, it's tragic, it's reprehensible."

The experiments were discovered by a Wellesley College medical historian. The studies claimed to test the effectiveness of penicillin.

The Nazi-like experiments were labelled the Sexually Transmitted Disease Inoculation Study of 1946-1948.

"The study is a sad reminder that adequate human subject safeguards did not exist a half-century ago," the statement by Clinton and Sebelius said. "Today, the regulations that govern U.S. funded human medical research prohibit these kinds of appalling violations."

Clinton and Sebelius said the United States is launching an investigation and also convening a group of international experts to review and report on the most effective methods to make sure all human medical research worldwide meets rigorous ethical standards.

"As we move forward to better understand this appalling event, we reaffirm the importance of our relationship with Guatemala, and our respect for the Guatemalan people, as well as outr commitment to the highest standares of ethics in medical research," the U.S. statement said.


Post your comment

Comments are moderated. See guidelines here.


  • That,s great that you apologize for your mistake.

    Posted by web design Hertfordshire, 08/19/2011 2:03am (4 years ago)

  • Got to agree with your information.

    Posted by Dharmendra, 10/06/2010 4:58pm (5 years ago)

  • It is one thing to appoligize and something else to pay reparations to the people effected. Then to turn around and say it going to watch its ethics from now on, while leaving out the whole purpose of medical science which is to cure the patient bespeaks to a lack of intelligent discussion as to what the appology really means or if the practices that are on-going throughout the U.S. Imerial empire are going to change to cure the peoples and various living life. Surely that would mean removing its troops from all the countries they have invaded immediately and ending the hundreds of extra-ordinary rendition to torture sights now opperating under the U.S. Imperial military and the C.I.A. and F.B.I. as well as their unjust torture centers in Iraq such as Abu-Graib- and Bahram, in Afghanistan. The U.S. Imerialists and their puppets iniGuatamala murdered 235,000 workers and peasants during their suppression of communist and socialist society of Arbenz the elected leader of the Guatamala people from 1953 on. That is even more horrific than their mengula experiments with siphlis. Appologies fall far short of natures requirments at this time and shows through the U..S. military backed coup in Honduras, and their military take over of Columbian bases that they have not really learned their lessons of medical curity yet.

    Posted by jon, 10/05/2010 4:17pm (5 years ago)

  • Thanks! We've corrected the error.

    Posted by The Editors, 10/05/2010 1:14pm (5 years ago)

  • Great article. One correction: The Guatemalan president's name is Colom, not Colon.

    These experiments are comparable to the Tuskeegee experiments and many, many others done around the world.

    Posted by Emile Schepers, 10/04/2010 8:48pm (5 years ago)

RSS feed for comments on this page | RSS feed for all comments