The Rights and Wrongs of Tuskegee

More lies about science from our betters.

Our society seems to have given political and social discussions over to a form of mob rule.  People fear for their jobs if they express an opinion that is not accepted by their colleagues or employer.  We've recently seen, for example, announcements from the boss at Disney World saying that his employees are enraged at the Florida so-called "Don't say gay" law which they claim restricts LGBTQWTF rights.  This came after some Disney World employees protested that the company hadn't criticized the law enough.

And then, there are other employees complaining about a hostile work environment at Disney because they aren't woke enough.  Rather than pursue the making of money, Disney is devolving into an internal culture war over issues that ought not to be within the purview of a private, publicly-traded for-profit company.  But, as has been clear since at least the days of Vladimir Lenin if not Karl Marx himself, anything corrupted by leftism fast becomes hell on earth.

The More Things Change

This isn't a new phenomenon - it's more obvious merely because there's more pushback these days than once there was to false narratives of the mainstream opinionmakers.  In times gone by, these mostly went unchallenged and sank into the historical zeitgest of received wisdom that "everyone knows" - despite being, as we'd say today, fake news!

Consider the famously infamous "Tuskegee Study of untreated syphilis in the Negro male."  Spiked described the common perception of this 1930s medical research study:

The "Tuskegee Study" was conducted in Macon County, Alabama between 1932 and 1972, and is often associated with the image of monstrous government researchers allowing black patients to suffer from a curable and devastating infection (syphilis), so as to document the natural course of the disease.

Some believe that this study reduced the black community's trust in the medical system enough to be a reason why the percentage of blacks who have accepted the Covid shot is lower than among other groups.  Other times, it's compared to Nazi psychopaths like Dr. Josef Mengele who performed ghastly experiments on helpless concentration camp victims.  In both cases, we're told, the mask of science was used to cover over gross inhumanity and barbaric abuses for no greater purpose than lab-coat jollies.

The study, which was conducted openly and without secrecy, is now commonly and routinely portrayed in one or more of the following ways: as racist science; as 'a programme of controlled genocide' (whites against blacks); as a violation of basic human rights; as a study by the US government's Public Health Service in which effective treatment for a fatal disease was withheld from a poor, uneducated, vulnerable minority group in disregard of their health and safety; as a callous scientific pursuit that ignored human values and was 'almost beyond belief and human compassion'; as 'an outrage to our commitment to integrity and equality for all our citizens'; as a research project in which the government gave syphilis to black people so as to scientifically document the natural course of the illness; as an 'experiment' in which human beings were treated like guinea pigs or laboratory rats.

The study is often cited as a compelling example of why we need the Institutional Review Board (IRB) system of ethical surveillance and control for research with human subjects - a system that is now applied by most US universities to all research with human beings, regardless of funding source (public, private or personal) and research topic (medical or non-medical).  [emphasis added]

One of the problems perceived with the Tuskegee study is that the men who participated weren't told what the study was all about.  However, this wasn't anything unique to this particular group - at the time, doctors routinely misled patients to further the "greater good."

Informed Consent

Prior to WWII, our modern-day medical concept of "informed consent" hadn't yet been articulated.  That came about because of worldwide horror at the medical experiments which Nazis like Dr. Mengele had carried out in concentration camps.  After the Nuremberg trials, the 1947 "Nuremberg Code" established the principle that people had to volunteer to participate in medical experiments, that they had to understand the purposes, goals, and risks of participating, be given the right to refuse, and the right to withdraw from the study at any time.

The New England Journal of Medicine discussed the Nuremberg code in their 50-year follow-up article of 1997:

Because of its link with the horrors of World War II and the use of prisoners in Nazi concentration camps for medical experimentation, debate continues today about the authority of the Code, its applicability to modern medical research, and even its authorship.

Their article discusses the legalities and ethics involved at some length.  But, it's ludicrously unfair to condemn the Tuskegee experimenters for not following a code that didn't even exist until decades later, and, as the NEJM points out, its applicability was still being debated 50 years after that in 1997.

Strange as it may seem to us today, we have to understand that the past is a foreign country.  For many decades following 1937 and for centuries previously:

In the traditional Hippocratic doctor-patient relationship, the patient is silent and dutifully obedient to the beneficent and trusted physician. [just as our progressive ruling elites expect silent obedience to their every pronouncement even today - ed]

We've since learned that unquestioning obedience to authorities is a Bad Idea, whether they be wearing lab coats, sharp suits, or Hugo Boss uniforms.  Our modern approach to doctors more closely resembles Ronald Reagan's sage advice to "Trust but verify".  Of course, modern communication methods make this enormously easier than it would have been for anyone in 1937, to say nothing of illiterate rural impoverished farm laborers.

What's more, experience shows that high-sounding principles such as "informed consent" aren't of much value without agreed standards for enforcing them.  The IRB law was passed in 1974, and a new agency set up to evaluate proposals for research involving people... and yes, for those reading closely, the legal requirement came about after the Tuskegee experiments had already ended.  Doesn't our Constitution say something about forbidding ex post facto laws, that is, holding people to the standard of a law that didn't exist when they were violating it?

So, what's the point of the Tuskegee experiment?  It's used as an all-purpose hammer against white people, science, public health research, and basically any criticism of black people for not following medical advice, as so many choose not to do - many times to their own hurt, but occasionally to their benefit.  But the hidden reality is, yes, the study participants weren't told much about their disease, because there wasn't much to tell.

Were treatments withheld from them?  Yes, but, Depression-era treatments for syphilis were fantastically expensive, very painful, took a long time, had very unpleasant side effects, and hadn't been shown to be particularly effective.  There were a wide variety of known drug treatments collectively known as "arsenical compounds" - yes, as the name implies, they contained arsenic, a powerful and deadly poison.  To this day, it's not clear that putting arsenic in your bloodstream did anyone any good - in fact, one of the core goals of the Tuskegee experiment was to compare the results of patients who had basically no likelihood of ever using the available treatments anyway with other patients who did receive them, to see if there was any difference.  There didn't appear to be any.

Today, of course, there are effective antibiotic treatments like penicillin for syphilis, but those weren't available until WWII, and not widely in use until the mid-1950s.  Were the patients told about or offered those?  No - because, by then, they'd been infected for decades, and a medical fact about syphilis that was known at the time, and is still solid science today, is that

...after the early stages of infection, the vast majority of people who have untreated syphilis either remain asymptomatic all of their lives or else spontaneously recover from the disease. For most people, a syphilis infection is either a self-limiting or self-correcting disease

Nobody stopped any of the participants who were still suffering in, say, 1955, from seeking treatment.  But it's not known that there even were any such - as is normal and expected with syphilis, after 20 years of having it, it really doesn't harm you anymore, so why worry about treating a non-problem?

Thus, the Tuskegee legend is basically a Big Lie - a blood libel against enemies of, variously, the left, Black Power, or any of their multifarious allies and fellow-travelers, mostly white people.  The Tuskegee doctors were trying to legitimately help both their patients and the world at large, and for this they're slandered as Nazis.

Informed Consent and Covid

When the Covid virus and its accompanying "vaccine" came along, there was debate about applying the Nuremberg code to it.  The British organization Fullfact addressed the question whether the code applied:

We spoke to experts in medical ethics, healthcare law and social epidemiology about the Nuremberg Code and whether its principles are applicable to the current vaccine roll out or vaccine passports.

Informed consent is still required for those receiving the Covid-19 or any other vaccine. But Professor Emma Cave, professor of healthcare law at Durham University, explained that the need for this does not come from the Nuremberg Code.  [emphasis added]

She said: "The Nuremberg Code relates to research, where the emphasis of informed consent requirements is on preventing the research participants from being used as a means to an end."

"Informed consent for treatment serves a slightly different purpose. It prevents a battery or negligence, and protects the autonomy rights of the patient. So informed consent is doing slightly different things in relation to research and treatment."

In Britain anyway, "informed consent" is required "for those receiving the Covid-19 or any other vaccine."  What about the US?

Informed Consent in the US

Our FDA publishes "A Guide to Informed Consent " which is intended to guide Institutional Review Boards who are charged with approving or disapproving a medical investigation.

For studies that are subject to the requirements of the FDA regulations, the informed consent documents should meet the requirements of 21 CFR 50.20 and contain the information required by each of the eight basic elements of 21 CFR 50.25(a), and each of the six elements of 21 CFR 50.25(b) that is appropriate to the study. IRBs have the final authority for ensuring the adequacy of the information in the informed consent document.  [emphasis added]

What's this gobbledygook trying to obfuscate?  The FDA definition requires informed consent for research studies like Tuskegee, but, unlike the British government, our government doesn't seem to require informed consent for "treatments" like the Covid vaccine.

The American Medical Association goes a bit further:

Informed consent to medical treatment is fundamental in both ethics and law. Patients have the right to receive information and ask questions about recommended treatments so that they can make well-considered decisions about care. Successful communication in the patient-physician relationship fosters trust and supports shared decision making. discusses informed consent law:

Informed Consent Law covers the legal aspect regarding an individual's right to be informed of and consent to a procedure or treatment suggested by a physician or professional.  [emphasis in the original]

The thrust of informed consent is that a patient must be informed of the risks of a procedure and be given the right to refuse the procedure if the patent isn't convinced that it will be beneficial.  This may not be specifically part of the Nuremberg Code, but certainly follows similar moral principles, which, on paper at least, are the foundation of humane medical research, practice, and treatment.

What Happened with Covid?

We won't go over the many, many reasons a person might refuse to receive what some call the "Fauci ouchie" and others the "death jab" because there is simply too much material.  According to the principles of the Nuremberg Code, though, they are irrelevant - if a patient truly believes that a treatment will turn them into a space alien, they have an absolute right to refuse that treatment even for a ludicrously absurd nonreason.

Of course, fears of covid vaccines are far more rational than that.  Authorities in America and in Europe are making it hard to determine whether reports of highly active athletes dying from heart failure after receiving the vaccine are accurate.  These attempts to conceal data or mislead patients about the vaccine make it difficult to persuade skeptics to receive the "clot shot" - not because they know it to be dangerous, but because they know they're being lied to about it.  How can consent be informed when data are seen to be hidden or manipulated?

The Biden administration urged employers to require that their employees receive the shot as a condition of continued employment. The administration also urged OSHA to write a rule requiring employers to require the shot. Coercion, by definition, makes a mockery of "informed consent" - you aren't "consenting" when you do something only because someone else is holding a gun to your head.

At least SCOTUS vacated that tyrranical imposition on the grounds that Covid is not a workplace hazard - it can be picked up anywhere, and OSHA has no authority outside the workplace.  This allowed companies to decline to enforce the requirement, but many still do, by their own choice.

SCOTUS did permit the government to require that organizations receiving money from Medicaid or Medicare - just about all medical practitioners - to require their employees to receive the vaccination regardless of whether the employee had recovered from Covid or not.  Some number of medical employees refused the shot; nobody can agree on how many or what their reasons were, but there's no question that medical employment took a major hit.  Doesn't that seem like the wrong course in the midst of a world-girdling pandemic?

We know a doctor who was severely reprimanded for discussing possible side effects of the Covid shot with patients.  His hospital's finances would suffer if employees were found to be spreading negative information about the shot.  When he was told to shut up, he resigned.  Enough health workers quit that many hospitals still suffer from a staff shortage.

As a practical matter, we're back to the conditions of the Tuskegee experiment, or worse.  At best, our medical authorities are concealing evidence about possible treatments from the public; at worst, they are knowingly giving worthless or harmful treatments, which the Tuskegee experimenters never contemplated doing to their patients.  Far from even learning the supposed lesson from Tuskegee, we're actually making the same mistakes as previously falsely advertised but on a far grander scale!

As usual, the progressives in our government are so concerned with humanity that they're willing to sacrifice individual people on the altar of whatever they see as the greater good, so long as it furthers their own personal power.  Ever hear of the "Covid billionaires?"

We're told that this brand-new type of "vaccine," which clearly doesn't actually prevent the illness but only reduces its severity, is so safe and effective that everyone must take it.  But as Reuters reports, people who are injured by the vaccine are out of luck.  We lost confidence when the vaccine makers were granted total immunity from any consequences for injuring a patient.  The makers must know something we don't or they wouldn't have demanded immunity.

In spite of the extremely hasty process of approving the Covid vaccine, its use is regarded as a "treatment" instead of a "study."  That is why SCOTUS was able to disregard informed consent for medical employees - the law itself speaks only to studies, not treatments.

The Tuskegee study is blamed for creating distrust of the medical system among blacks and other minorities; perhaps the false advertising of the supposed evils of Tuskegee contributed to that distrust.  But our medical authorities have, in reality, done many things which make the public legitimately distrust them.

For example, Johns Hopkins University showed that lockdowns and other Covid measures had little or no effect, but the media ignored the study.  Johns Hopkins also published a study of all deaths form all causes during 2018 through 2020 which argued not only that total deaths didn't go up much beyond what we'd expect of a bad flu year, that many deaths were falsely counted as Covid deaths:

Interestingly, as depicted in the table below, the total decrease in deaths by other causes almost exactly equals the increase in deaths by COVID-19. This suggests, according to Briand [the lead author], that the COVID-19 death toll is misleading. Briand believes that deaths due to heart diseases, respiratory diseases, influenza and pneumonia may instead be recategorized as being due to COVID-19.

The CDC classified all deaths that are related to COVID-19 simply as COVID-19 deaths. Even patients dying from other underlying diseases but are infected with COVID-19 count as COVID-19 deaths. This is likely the main explanation as to why COVID-19 deaths drastically increased while deaths by all other diseases experienced a significant decrease. [emphasis added]

"All of this points to no evidence that COVID-19 created any excess deaths. Total death numbers are not above normal death numbers. We found no evidence to the contrary," Briand concluded. [emphasis added]

The URL for the article doesn't point to the Johns Hopkins web site - it can't, because the article was removed from the official site a few hours after it was published for fear that it might be misinterpreted.  At the time, fear of Covid was being used to justify emergency measures which gave enormous power to unelected bureaucrats.  These restrictions were also harming our economy, which was going to be one of Mr. Trump's major claims to be re-elected.  Poking holes in Covid statistics might have led people not to trust the Covid narrative, which wouldn't do at all.

As if to confirm the impression that medical authorities are concealing facts, the New York Times reported that the CDC is holding back a great deal of detailed information about Covid cases, hospitalizations, and wastewater studies.  The Times quoted Kristen Nordlund, a spokeswoman for the C.D.C., as saying that the CDC was afraid that the data might be - aha! - misinterpreted.

The Times also quoted Samuel Scarpino, managing director of pathogen surveillance at the Rockefeller Foundations Pandemic Prevention Institute, as pointing out, "The C.D.C. is a political organization as much as it is a public health organization."  We certainly agree with that observation.

Because few people any longer trust statistics about Covid deaths in any country, statisticians have been comparing deaths in each week of our two Covid years with deaths during those same weeks in earlier years.  New York Magazine published an analysis which explains why our CDC, which like most bureaucracies owes political allegiance to the Biden administration and Democrats generally, would want to hide or spin Covid information:

On February 1, 2021, just after the inauguration of Joe Biden, the U.S. had registered, according to The Economist, 178 excess deaths per 100,000 inhabitants, quite close to Britain's 166, Belgium's 162, and Portugal's 201. Fast-forward a year and those gaps have exploded. The U.S. has now registered 330 excess deaths per 100,000 - meaning our total has roughly doubled. In Britain, the excess mortality grew only 30 percent; in Portugal, it was 17 percent. [emphasis added]

The gaps between deaths in the U.S. and countries that had done better in the first year of the pandemic, like Germany or Iceland, have gotten even bigger. If the U.S. had the same cumulative excess mortality of Germany, it would have had 600,000 fewer deaths. If it had the excess mortality of Iceland, it would have had a million fewer deaths - and would have only lost about 100,000 Americans in total.

How did this happen? 

Candidate Biden told President Trump during one of the debates that any President who had presided over so many American deaths was unfit for office.  Now that he has presided over many more Covid fatalities than Mr. Trump, what would he say if someone were to ask him about his being unfit for office?

Progressives in our government have spent the Covid years demanding that we "follow the science" and obey them blindly, but we can see that they reject, hide, or spin any data that conflicts with their preferred course of action, reflects well on the Trump administration, or which reflects poorly on the Biden administration.

How could CDC data be "misinterpreted?"  What if the data show that masking wasn't useful or that lockdowns caused more deaths than slowing the spread of Covid prevented?  Or that vaccination causes serious heart problems in many healthy young men, or makes infection by one of the new variants more likely?

It took 40 years, the medical horrors of the Nazi medical experiments during WWII, and increased public awareness of the claimed details of the Tuskegee study to get informed consent form medical studies onto the legislative radar.  This led to the 1974 regulations establishing the Institutional Review Board (IRB) to review medical experiments.

A half-century later, public health agencies seem to have gone out of their way to decrease or destroy confidence in both their expertise and their honesty.  As we see it, more and more information about negative effects of the jab, more evidence that taxpayer-dollars-funded "gain of function" virus research in China, and increased credibility of the "lab leak" theory are leaking out.

We hope it doesn't take 40 years and another World War to re-establish enforceable informed consent for medical treatment, and a bit more effective oversight of medical research that reeks more of Dr. Frankenstein or Dr. Mengele than of any doctor we'd want!

Will Offensicht is a staff writer for and an internationally published author by a different name.  Read other articles by Will Offensicht or other articles on Science.
Reader Comments

'Deep State' Was Working Against Trump on COVID-19 Response: Paul Alexander
'Deep State' Was Working Against Trump on COVID-19 Response: Paul Alexander

May 2, 2022 5:23 PM

It turns out that COVID was more bogus than Tuskeege as you describe it.

This is a small part of what's coming out:

GB: I have previously noted that a very high number of vaccinations were required to prevent a single death when the vaccines were first made available based on the original Pfizer trials. The efficacy of the vaccine in preventing hospitalization from covid, ICU care for covid, and deaths attributed to covid has declined over time, so the number to vaccinate to prevent a death are higher than when I reported on this issue. At the time the vaccines were introduced, the risks were unknown given the small number of people in the trials. We now have data on adverse events from the vaccine. The VAERS database was created to detect adverse events from new vaccines that were missed during initial trials. Yet, the overwhelming signal coming from the VAERS database has been ignored. The life insurance industry has made public that deaths in 2021 were far above expectations from actuarial data. The CDC reports large numbers of excess deaths in 2021 that have persisted during 2022. These excess deaths cannot be explained by covid infection. Respiratory deaths have been average ever since approximately July 2020. It is cardiovascular deaths that are unexpectedly and unexplainably high. These cardiovascular deaths include strokes, heart attacks, sudden deaths attributed to arrhythmias, and congestive heart failure including unexpected cases of myocarditis. There have been numerous claims that the vaccines are responsible based on regression of mortality rates vs. vaccination rates. The CDC has the data to either confirm or reject the vaccine as a cause of the excess deaths, but the CDC refuses to release the data to the public.

RM: Now that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have been around for nearly two years, has the federal government shown any interest in evaluating the efficacy of these vaccines or the problem of side effects? Surely, we know much more now, but do you think the federal government give a fair hearing to negative information about the effects of the mandates?

GB: The control group in the original vaccine trials were eliminated after 90 days. Everyone in the trial received the vaccine. There is no control group to monitor for long term adverse events. The excess deaths in 2021 that have persisted into 2022 are probably the biggest medical story at the current time, yet the CDC seems uninterested in finding an explanation. The CDC has the data that would either confirm or exclude the vaccine as the cause of these excess deaths, yet the CDC refuses to release this data. In my opinion, both the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration have failed to be scientific organizations that protect the public from medical harm. Both organizations have become political in nature. This was a criticism of public funding of scientific research made by John Galt in the novel, Atlas Shrugged, and the prediction has become reality.

RM: Within the medical community, is it possible to criticize the mandates? One heard very little dissent on this in 2020. Is it possible to dissent more now?

GB: It is very risky for anyone in the medical community to criticize any aspect of covid policy. This includes mask policy, alternative therapies, vaccine mandates, or quarantines. Licensing boards, including the American Board of Internal Medicine, have threatened physicians with the loss of licensure for spreading "disinformation" about covid-19. Of course, disinformation has nothing to do with correct or incorrect information, but rather means anything that contradicts a political narrative. The practice of medicine is gradually being transformed from a scientific inquiry seeking fact into a religious cult accepting dogma under the threat of excommunication.

September 2, 2022 7:45 PM
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