The Beneficence Principle wants maximum benefits and minimum harm. The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment did the exact opposite of that. The government doctors of the US Public Health Service studied the maximum harm and minimum benefits of untreated syphilis. According to Talebearer Clark, the founder of the experiment, “Macon County Is a natural laboratory – a ready made situation. The rather low Intelligence of the negro population, depressed economic conditions, and the very common promiscuous sexual relations, not only contribute to the spread of syphilis UT also to the prevailing indifference with regard to treatment” (Dianna, 1993).
The government doctors studied patients with syphilis from the earliest of stages all the way to death, the goal being to see if syphilis was the same in blacks as it was in whites. The doctors told the patients they could cure their “bad blood” and invited them in for treatment. The doctors never told them how bad their condition was or what stage they were at. They simply “gave the men placebos, vitamins, aspirin, and tonics to keep up the appearance of treatment (Dianna, 1993). The third part to The Ethics Framework for Public Health questions the known or potential burdens of the program.
The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment clearly violates this ethical principle (as well as many others). In this principle It states “If data suggests that a program is reasonably likely to achieve its stated goals, then the third step of the framework asks us to identify burdens or harms that could occur through our public health work” (Champed and Elliot 2010). The doctors in the Tuskegee Experiment clearly knew they were achieving their goal, which was recording the effects of untreated syphilis, but failed to identify and inform the burdens and/or harms that were occurring in their public health work.
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The men were never informed of the problems they had, and in fact were led to believe they were getting better. The goal of the Tuskegee Experiment was to find out if syphilis had the same effect in black people as It did In whites, at that time blacks were thought to be “fundamentally and genetically deferent” (Dianna, 1993). As sad as it Is to say, at the end of the experiment there were a few benefits, one being doctors now know the effects of syphilis on anybody, regardless of race or gender, If left untreated.
Another benefit to come from this experiment would be ethics in Public Health and the be no Belmont Report or Ethics Framework for Public Health in our textbook. There are many long-term repercussions to advancing public health goals because of this experiment. It caused blacks, and others living in low class, oppressed populations to have distrust and lack of respect for the information given to them by doctors. They were misled and misinformed by these “doctors” and no longer want their information or help. And because of this they do not step forward or help for health issues when it’s needed.
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