Flashback: President Clinton Apologises for Syphilis Experiment On Blacks — 28 Men Died, 100 Died of Related Complications, 40 Wives Infected, 19 Children Contracted the Disease at Birth
- AP Archive
(16 May 1997) English/Nat President Clinton is taking steps to right a wrong by apologising to the black men whose syphilis went untreated because of a federal experiment. He is also seeking to regain the faith of blacks who mistrust the government to this day because of the notorious Tuskegee study, which began in the thirties. The men’s syphilis was left to run its course despite the fact that penicillin was available which could have cured the disease. In a White House ceremony on Friday, President Bill Clinton said he was sorry the men had been betrayed by their government. Clinton apologised to Carter Howard, Charlie Pollard, Herman Shaw, and Fred Simmons on behalf of the United States for having let them suffer for so long during the Tuskegee Syphilis Study. Nearly 400 men signed up with the U-S Public Health Service for free medical care. What these men weren’t told was that they had syphilis. Neither were they told the service was conducting a study on the effects of that disease on the human body and that they would be the guinea pigs. Herman Shaw was one of those guinea pigs.
SOUNDBITE: (English) “I’m saying today (Friday) to think of those who did not survive and whose families will forever live with the knowledge that their death and suffering was preventable.” SUPER CAPTION: Herman Shaw, Experiment Victim The president called it a shameful episode in American history. SOUNDBITE: (English) “What was done cannot be undone but we can end the silence. We can stop turning our heads away, we can look at you in the eye and finally say on behalf of the American people what the United States government did was shameful and I am sorry.” SUPER CAPTION: Bill Clinton United States President The President asked the victims to help put the past behind, so the nation could move forward. SOUNDBITE: (English) “For only you Mr. Shaw the others who were here the family members who are with us in Tuskegee only you have the power to forgive. Your presence here shows us that you have chosen a better path than your government did so long ago. You have not withheld the power to forgive.” SUPER CAPTION: Bill Clinton, United States President During the ceremony, President Clinton pledged a 200-thousand-dollar planning grant to Tuskegee University to build a Centre for Bioethics in Research and Health Care. He said the centre would serve as a lasting memorial that would address the legacy of the syphilis study. Clinton also announced the creation of bioethics fellowships for minority students. By the time the study was exposed in 1972, 28 men had died of the sexually transmitted disease. One hundred others were dead of related complications. At least 40 wives had been infected. And 19 children had contracted the disease at birth.