Beginning in 1932, health agencies of the U.S, government began a shocking medical experiment on several hundred peer, uneducated African-American men from the rural areas near Tuskegee, Alabama. These men were told they had “bad blood” and were promised free medical treatment. In fact, they had syphilis, and they were deliberately left untreated so doctors could study the long-term progressive symptoms of the disease. For forty years, this experiment continued. Its subjects did not know how they were beingused, the community did not know, and the public did not know in 1972. the experiment came to light, and civil rights attorney Fred Gray filed a massive, ultimately, successful, class action lawsuit against the government.
Early in 1997, the survivors of the study were deeply offended by an HBO television broadcast of Miss Evers’ Boys, play about the Study. They felt the production was inaccurate, insensitive, and insulting in its portrayal of them and that it placed responsibility for the study not on white officials but on the victims’ outrage over the film, attorney Gray led a campaign to get President Clinton to publicly apologize on behalf of the nation to the Study survivors, which the President did on May 10, 1997. In a White House ceremony.
In the Tuskegee Syphilis Study attorney Gray has written an insider’s account of the study, the lawsuit, the controversy over the film/play and subsequent apology. He profiles some of the men involved, and puts in perspective the social conditions that allowed the study to be created to begin with and to continue for so many years.
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