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Bad Blood: The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment

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Autor:   •  February 15, 2011  •  1,728 Words (7 Pages)  •  645 Views

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ANALYSIS OF THE BOOK

BAD BLOOD: THE TUSKEGEE SYPHILIS EXPERIMENT

Dr. Bradley Moody

PUAD 6010

By

22 November 2004

Introduction

The book BAD BLOOD: THE TUSKEGEE SYPHILIS EXPERIMENT by James H. Jones was a very powerful compilation of years of astounding research, numerous interviews, and some very interesting positions on the ethical and moral issues associated with the study of human beings under the Public Health Service (PHS). "The Tuskegee study had nothing to do with treatment ... it was a nontherapeutic experiment, aimed at compiling data on the effects of the spontaneous evolution of syphilis in black males" (Jones pg. 2). Jones is very opinionated throughout the book; however, he carefully documents the foundation of those opinions with quotes from letters and medical journals. The book allowed the reader to see the experiment from different viewpoints. This was remarkable because of the initial feelings the reader has when first hearing of the experiment. In the beginning of the book, the reader will see clearly there has been wrong doing in this experiment, but somehow, Jones will transform you into asking yourself, "How could this happen for so long?"

Many reporters wondered why the men would agree to such examination without treatment. Jones points out the economical status of the 1930's is one where the men were eager to attend because they received so much more than what they currently had during that time period. Free medical exams, free rides to the examinations, hot meals on exam days, free treatment for minor ailments, and a guaranteed burial stipend of a modest $50 in 1932 were all promised to the men for their involvement with these experiments (Jones pg. 4).

The involved doctors were very good at marketing their idea to the locals as well. During this time the Rosenwald Fund was initiated by Julius Rosenwald to assist in educating the African-Americans in the South by supporting the construction of schools for black students. Shortly after the withdrawal of the Rosenwald Fund, Dr. Taliaferro Clark, who was selected by the surgeon general as the reviewer of the Rosenwald Fund, realized the potential of the opportunity to study Macon County Alabama's African-American males and sparked the idea of the Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male. This study was the longest nontherapeutic experiment on human beings in medical history (Jones pg. 91). Therefore, Jones' purpose was to document the experiment in a way that the reader would see all points of view, yet still realize without doubt, the implications of this study.

Themes

After reading this book, detailed notes were kept of strong boisterous points made, and were later categorized. A majority of these points were categorized as "DECEITFUL." It was apparent that Dr. Clark and Dr. Raymond Vonderlehr, Public Health Service officer selected to be in charge of the study, were both well adverse in what the public would agree to, and would not agree to. This is evident throughout the book; however, one particular instance that stood out in my mind the most was the selling of the idea to the African-Americans through the use of the schools and churches. Because of these locations, the African-American males felt safe because of their beliefs that the church would not condone anything that would hurt them. They also looked forward to the exam days because of the "social gatherings and a half day away from the fields" (Jones pg. 69). Deceit also played a part in the selling of the study to the Plantation owners by reminding them of the earlier successes against such diseases as yellow fever, typhoid fever, and pellagra. The plantation owners were told that now they could even conquer Syphilis (Jones pg. 67).

Dr. Clark also took actions that were deceitful to his peers as well. In an article on the Rosenwald Fund's syphilis control demonstrations, he was careful to only circulate this article to people directly involved within the medical industry. This limited the amount of publicity in which the ethical issues were sure to be identified (Jones pg. 77). Dr. Clark was also careful in discussing the study to Dr. J. N. Baker, the Alabama state health officer, in order to gain approval for the study (Jones pg. 98). Dr. Clark had planned to complete the study within six to eight months, which basically made treatment a pointless effort when the current treatment duration was over one year long (Jones pg. 99).

The lesson public administrators should gain from reading this book is the deceitfulness that exist today. Much like Dr. Clark, many individuals who are so aggressive at achieving their goals, will stop at nothing to be successful in achieving those goals. Public Administrators should pay close attention to the tasks they are involved in, and always remember to "step back" and look at the "big picture." These lessons learned are very important, especially in today's societal values of the fair and equal treatment of mankind. With the rise of the human rights activist, and even the animal rights activist, society is now closely looking at the moral and ethical ways "we" treat each other.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Jones' ability to move the reader from one viewpoint to another was simply amazing. When the reader first begins to read the book, anger, confusion, hurt, and disbelief, are all synonymous of the feelings brought on through the words of the book. But as the reader continues, they are drawn to the many "reasons" illustrated so well throughout the book of how the PHS gained a vast array of approval throughout the study to help justify the experimentation methods used. Dr. Oliver Clarence Wenger, who was in charge of the Mississippi Wassermann survey, believed there was a cure, but that the cure was too costly (Jones pg. 57). The Wasserman test was a pigment fixation test that was developed in 1907 and was instrumental in identifying syphilis. Dr. John R. Heller, a retired PHS officer who had served as the director

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