Tuskegee Syphilis Study

The Ethical Principles Violated

In this study, there were several ethical principles which were violated. To begin with, there was provision of free medical examination in the study. However, the study violated some ethical principles due to the fact that subjects were not clearly informed about the diagnosis. In addition, ethical  principles were violated as participants were denied proper treatments.  In some cases, participants were given fake treatments and placebos instead of the right treatment. It was noted during the study that there were some several participants who died slowly under a painful death due to their severe effect from syphilis. Likewise, it was not ethical to let patients die since such an act violated ethical principles (Hoberman, 2012). Moreover, such an ethical implications evident in the study led to the loss of many lives, leading to a stop on the study with an immediate effect in 1973 by the United States Department of Health. The fact that the clinical experiment was not made famous as required proved that ethical principle was violated. Likewise, the death incidences occurring from the study were publicized, thus becoming a big political embarrassment to the government.

From the Tuskegee syphilis study, one will realize that there was a no informed consent. Operating in such a manner violates the ethical principles (Northridge, 2010). On the other hand, respect for individuals was not made clear as participants were not given  accurate information about their circumstances as well as treatment options. Evidently, participants were not given the opportunity to decide what could happen to them.

Consequently, the study violated ethical principles of beneficence. This is evident where the participants were not well informed of all known dangers  associated with the treatment. Additionally, the principle of beneficence was violated as participants were not informed on the benefits which they could get from the scheduled treatment (Northridge, 2010).

Again, the participants in the study were not given clear information for them to agree of an autopsy after their death to ensure that their cost is well covered. Due to such a reason, the principle of justice was violated. Participants died without knowing the risks they were taking by getting involved in the study. 

At some point, the participants were denied medication by the scientist who wanted to observe the individual dangers and the fatal progression of the disease. Under such circumstances, the patients were seen to suffer much as they battled with the disease under severe conditions. Moreover, the principle of justice to the sick was evident.

Consequently, the study violated the principle of justice as the participants were not given the cure, even after it the cure was diagnosed. It was noted that the doctors as well as researchers could not provide  treatment due to favoritism to some patients. They chose to ignore the participants and violated his right to justice.

Again, the principle of justice was violated by designers who used a misleading advertisement to get participants through the use of a slogan; the last chance for a special treatment. The slogan did not mean what it said as it did not give people fair treatment. Moreover, the research participants were not selected in a fair manner, since the selection was not randomly done. Again, the study did not put more considerations on the economic, and social class of the participants; thus, violated ethical principles (Paul, and  Brookes, 2015).      

Who is Responsible for The Outcome of the Study

The CDC’s are responsible for the outcome of the study. It was back in January 2004 when the last study participants died (Katz et al, 2008). After the death of the participants the CDC’s were very sensible in preventing any more deaths from taking place. However, in January 2009, a widow was given medication linked to Syphilis medication (Hoberman, 2012). One would assert that the CDC is responsible for the outcome of the study as the program did not provide adequate treatment for the disease. Therefore, many deaths were bound to occur due to lack of proper medication.  

Could the Study be Conducted in 2016

It is true that the study of Syphillis could be conducted in 2016. This is because, there are better advanced machines and medication which can be offered to the participants currently. Again, the other reason as to why the study could be offered in 2016 is the fact that the CDC’s have identified different areas of study which need to be worked on to bring advanced medications and prevent deaths. Since there are twelve offspring who are currently receiving medical and health care benefits, it is clear that the study could be conducted in 2016 (Hoberman, 2012).  At the time when the Tuskegee syphilis study was conducted, there were many ethics which were violated implying that if the study could be conducted in 2016, no ethics could be violated as there had been increased knowledge over the years.   


Hoberman, J. (2012), “Examining Tuskegee”, Society, vol. 49, no. 3, pp. 292-295.

Katz, Ralph V, DMD,PhD., M.P.H., Kegeles, S.S., Kressin, N.R., PhD., Green, B.L., James, S.A., PhD., Wang, M.Q., PhD., Russell, Stefanie L, DDS,PhD., M.P.H. & Claudio, C., PhD. (2008), “Awareness of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study and the US Presidential Apology and Their Influence on Minority Participation in Biomedical Research”, American Journal of Public Health, vol. 98, no. 6, pp. 1137-42.

Northridge, M.E. (2010), “Claiming Tuskegee”, Health affairs, vol. 29, no. 6, pp. 1271-1272.

Paul, C. & Brookes, B. (2015), “The Rationalization of Unethical Research: Revisionist Accounts of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study and the New Zealand “Unfortunate Experiment””, American Journal of Public Health, vol. 105, no. 10, pp. E12-E19.