A Lawsuit Brought by Victims of a Government Study Unearthed by Reverby was Dismissed this Week

June 17, 2013

In 2009, Susan Reverby, Marion Butler McLean Professor in the History of Ideas and Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies, In 2009, uncovered government records which showed that thousands of Guatemalans were intentionally infected with STDs in the 1940s by US public health researchers. A year ago, a US District Court ruled the United States was protected under two immunity laws and dismissed the case. An appeal against the US government was dismissed this week.

Over 1300 people, including soldiers, inmates, sex workers, mental health patients, and schoolchildren, were deliberately infected with syphilis and other sexually transmitted diseases. Read "Guatemalan syphilis victims lose hope in legal battle against US" in the Christian Science Monitor.

Reverby found the records while researching a similar study conducted in Tuskgee, Alabama, that left hundreds of African American men deliberately untreated for syphilis until the study ended in 1972. Her book, Examining Tuskegee: The Infamous Syphilis Study and Its Legacy (University of North Carolina Press, 2009), details the study’s racist history, explains how people experienced it, and why the doctors thought it was the right thing to do.

Susan Reverby is a historian of American health care, women, race, and public health with a focus is on equality and ethics.