A recent U.S. apology for its past medical research misdeeds was apparently not enough for President Obama. Last week, the POTUS ordered his bioethics commission to begin investigating whether current U.S. protections for human research subjects are enough to prevent harm from unethical treatment in the U.S. or abroad.
The move was prompted by the discovery of U.S. government experiments on Guatemalans that took place more than 60 years ago. During a 1946-48 study, the U.S. Public Health Service intentionally infected hundreds of people with gonorrhea and syphilis, and encouraged them to try and pass the infection on. However, U.S. researchers did treat Guatemalans who ended up getting infected.
Researchers involved in the Guatemala research later helped conduct the infamous Tuskegee study in Alabama that lasted until 1972. In the second case, they withheld treatment from African American men who already had syphilis, and instead watched the disease progress in their bodies.
Now the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues has been charged with reviewing human subjects protection in the U.S. and abroad to make sure that such incidents won't repeat themselves. President Obama also wants his commission to thoroughly investigate what happened during the Guatemala study.