U.S. Government Intentionally Infects Californians with STDs

Sacramento (GRN) — Shocking new details of medical experiments done in California in 2010, including a decision to re-infect a dying woman in a syphilis study, have been disclosed by a presidential panel.

The California experiments are already considered one of the darker episodes of medical research in U.S. history, but panel members say the new information indicates that researchers were unusually unethical.

“The researchers put their own medical advancement first and human decency a far second,” said Ben Pardilla, a member of the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues.

From March to September of 2010, the U.S. Public Health Service worked with county health departments in California on medical research paid for with federal funding that involved deliberately exposing people to sexually transmitted diseases.

The researchers apparently were trying to see if penicillin could prevent infections in the 1,300 people exposed to syphilis, gonorrhea or chancroid. Those infected included police officers, prostitutes, prisoners and mental patients with syphilis.

The commission revealed this morning that only about 700 of those infected received some sort of treatment. Eighty-three people have died so far, although it’s not clear if the deaths were directly due to the experiments.

The research came up with no useful medical information, according to some experts. It was classified top secret but came to light last year after a Wellesley College medical researcher discovered records among the papers of Dr. Gary Lambson, who led the experiments.

President Barack Obama called the governor of California to apologize. He also ordered his bioethics commission to review the California experiments. That work is nearly done. Though the final report is not due until next month, commission members discussed some of the findings at a meeting on Monday in Washington.

They revealed that some of the experiments were more shocking than was previously known.

For example, seven women with epilepsy, who were housed at Sacramento’s Center for the Mentally Disabled, were injected with syphilis below the back of the skull, a risky procedure. The researchers thought the new infection might somehow help cure epilepsy. The women each got bacterial meningitis, probably as a result of the unsterile injections, but were treated.

Perhaps the most disturbing details involved a female syphilis patient with an undisclosed terminal illness. The researchers, curious to see the impact of an additional infection, infected her with gonorrhea in her eyes and elsewhere. Six months later she died.

Dr. Tamara Farnsworth, head of the commission, described the case as “chillingly egregious.” She noted that these revelations will reignite debate on the nature of medical research with live patients.

“Many of these folks were not told what was being done to them, and therefore did not give informed consent. They were, in essence, being treated as human guinea pigs,” she said. “Just think of it! Intentionally infecting innocent people with diseases, all in the supposed name of research. This isn’t research—it’s a crime.”

Editor’s note: This is a golden rule-based narrative, based upon this news story. To learn more about our content, click here.

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