U.S. officials apologized Friday for American scientists in the 1940s who deliberately infected prisoners and patients in a mental hospital in Guatemala with syphilis.
The U.S. government-funded experiment that occurred between 1946 and 1948, was discovered by a Wellesley College medical historian. The experiment, led by Dr. John Culter, was conducted to test if penicillin could prevent STD infection. The study, which was hidden until now, did not come up with any useful information.
"We are outraged that such reprehensible research could have occurred under the guise of public health," Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said of the Guatemalan project Friday.
"Obviously this is shocking, it's tragic, it's reprehensible," White House press secratary Robert Gibbs said. "It's tragic and the U.S. by all means apologizes to all those who were impacted."
In Guatemala, nearly 700 men and women were exposed to syphilis and even gonorrhea in some cases, through jailhouse visits by prostitutes or by deliberately inoculating them, reported Wellesley College historian Susan Reverby.
She also said that the U.S. had gotten permission from Guatemalan officials to conduct the study, but did not inform the experimental subjects.
The regulations against experimenting on people without their consent did not exist 60 years ago.