***101′,’1′,’2010-10-03 08:07:35′,’2010-10-03 08:07:35′,’

So this is all over the news, but is it possible not to say “Nazi?”

AFP – They used Guatemalans as lab rats. It is important that family members receive some kind of compensation.”

Lawmaker Zury Rios also urged compensation for not only the victims, but the nation as a whole.

“It is just not enough to say you are sorry. We need to be compensated as a (sovereign) State, maybe with the funding of a solid sex and reproductive health program,” she insisted.

In a phone conversation with President Alvaro Colom on Friday, US President Barack Obama expressed his deep regret for the experiment conducted by US public health researchers in Guatemala between 1946 and 1948, and apologized “to all those affected.”

The study, which was never published, came to light this year after Wellesley College professor Susan Reverby stumbled upon archived documents outlining the 1940s experiment led by controversial US public health doctor John Cutler.

First, I think Prof. Reverby deserves an award. Secondly, I think that Rios’ demand for reparation done through funding of a sex and reproductive health program is just, after such a heinously racist “experiment,” in addition to the compensation to the victims and/or their surviving families. There is no way to turn back the clock, but there are ways to engage in constructive and needed reparative action for destructive past deeds.

 And this is really interesting:

The studies were sponsored by the Public Health Service, the National Institutes of Health and the Pan American Health Sanitary Bureau (now the World Health Organization’s Pan American Health Organization) and the Guatemalan government. 

 A number of high-ranking U.S. government officials knew about the research, including Thomas Parran Jr., who was then U.S. surgeon general, the documents show. “You know, we couldn’t do such an experiment in this country,” Parran said, according to Cutler. Parran died in 1968.

 So what’s the PR line now?

NIH Director Francis S. Collins condemned the experiment and said strict prohibitions are in place to prevent such abuses from happening today.

“This case of unethical human subject research represents an appalling example from a dark chapter in the history of medicine,” Collins told reporters during a telephone briefing Friday.

Although Collins said it was important that the experiments had been made public, he acknowledged that the revelation could deepen entrenched suspicions about scientists and doctors. The Tuskegee experiment continues to be blamed for making many minorities reluctant to participate in medical studies or even seek medical care.

It’s too easy and lazy to solely demonize Dr. Cutler as some Victor Frankenstein or Nazi medical researcher, as if the problem was not profoundly institutional. Here we have evidence that a number of agencies, officials, and researchers knew about this experiment, yet how many came forward to inform the public and trigger accountability actions? Zero. And Ms. Collins is surprised that minorities are going to be reluctant to participate in medical studies? Heck, anyone from the majority should be quite reluctant to do so!

But the bigger question underlying question is: How many other such experiments were carried out that are still tightly wrapped under the mantle of corrupt silence?

Lastly, and very sadly, this same dynamics is exactly what happens concerning the sexual abuse of minors on an international level. Privileged people from countries with stricter laws and measures against sexual abuse travel to countries where they can abuse and torture minors with impunity, along the same rationale, “You know, we couldn’t do such abuse so easily in this country, so we go abroad.” 


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