$1 Billion Lawsuit: Government Funded Studies Intentionally Infected People with STDs

April 3, 2015   |   Carey Wedler

Carey Wedler
April 3, 2015

(ANTIMEDIA) A class action lawsuit has been filed against Johns Hopkins University for performing unethical, government-sponsored studies on Guatemalan citizens in the 1940s and 1950s. Doctors from the hospital, the suit alleges, deliberately infected soldiers, prisoners, orphans, and the mentally ill with STDs like syphilis and gonorrhea — without their consent — in order to test whether or not penicillin could cure them. Consent was only granted from authorities in Guatemala.

The lawsuit involves almost 800 plaintiffs, including affected family members and spouses of the original victims. It is seeking nearly a billion dollars in damages and also names the Rockefeller Foundation as complicit, saying it helped “design, support, encourage and finance” the studies. Additionally, it alleges that pharmaceutical giant, Bristol-Myers Squibb, supplied the penicillin. The revelations came only because Susan Reverby, a professor at Wellesley University, uncovered the evidence in 2010.

The lawsuit claims the following methods were used to infect subjects:

“During the experiments the following occurred:

1. Prostitutes were infected with venereal disease and then provided for sex to subjects for intentional transmission of the disease;

2. Subjects were inoculated by injection of syphilis spirochaetes into the spinal fluid that bathes the brain and spinal cord, under the skin, and on mucous membranes;

3. An emulsion containing syphilis or gonorrhea was spread under the foreskin of the penis in male subjects;

4. The penis of male subjects was scraped and scarified and then coated with the emulsion containing syphilis or gonorrhea;

5. A woman from the psychiatric hospital was injected with syphilis, developed skin lesions and wasting, and then had gonorrheal pus from a male subject injected into both of her eyes and;

6. Children were subjected to blood studies to check for the presence of venereal disease.”

Another disturbing element of the STD studies is that the 696 original “participants” were not notified of what was being done to them. They were not told of the consequences of the studies, provided medical care, or told how to stop the spread of the diseases. Many did not receive what was considered sufficient treatment in those years (only 60 of the plaintiffs in the suit are original victims as most are now dead — many directly because of the diseases they received).

Correspondence between one of the lead researchers and another doctor revealed that the researchers knew what they were doing was unethical. The Guardian cites the letter, explaining doctors knew

…that if it were discovered by ‘some goody organization’ that the program was testing people who were mentally ill it would ‘raise a lot of smoke.’ The manager continues: ‘I see no reason to say where the work was done and the type of volunteer.’

A 2012 lawsuit against the federal government, rooted in the Federal Tort Claims Act, was dismissed by a federal judge. The judge ruled the United States could not be charged for actions committed outside the country. Unsurprisingly, in the 1940s, leaders of the experiment chose Guatemala because they knew they would not be permitted to conduct the study domestically. One of them, John Cutler, was a U.S. health service physician who was later involved in the notorious Tuskegee syphilis experiments, where 600 black men were left untreated for decades to study the effects of the disease.

When the news of the Guatemalan experiments surfaced in 2010, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius issued an apology for the government program (after a presidential bioethics commission ruled the studies constituted “unconscionable basic violations of ethics.”)

Their statement said,

The conduct exhibited during the study does not represent the values of the US, or our commitment to human dignity and great respect for the people of Guatemala.

(It ignored the inconvenient detail that in the same time period as the experiments, the CIA ousted a democratically elected leader in order to protect corporate agriculture, which doesn’t exactly imply respect or dignity for the people.)

Both Johns Hopkins and the Rockefeller Foundation are denying guilt, instead shifting it to the originators of the study — the legally-exonerated U.S. government. The Rockefeller Foundation said the plaintiffs were trying “improperly to assign ‘guilt by association’ in the absence of compensation from the United States federal government.”

A spokesperson for Johns Hopkins argued,

Johns Hopkins did not initiate, pay for, direct of conduct the study in Guatemala. No nonprofit university or hospital has ever been held liable for a study conducted by the US government.

The university has vowed to defend itself against the lawsuit.

Though the federal government refuses to compensate the victims, its admission that the studies constituted egregious violations of ethics is telling.

As Marta Orellana, a victim who was nine years old when she was infected, said:

They never told me what they were doing, never gave me a chance to say no…I’ve lived almost my whole life without knowing the truth. May God forgive them.


This article ($1 Billion Lawsuit: Government Funded Studies Intentionally Infected People with STDs) is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to the author and TheAntiMedia.org. Tune in to the Anti-Media radio show Monday through Friday @ 11pm Eastern/8pm Pacific. Image credit: Jake Patterson/Flickr.  Help us fix our typos: edits@theantimedia.org.

Author: Carey Wedler

Carey Wedler joined Anti-Media as an independent journalist in September of 2014. Her topics of interest include the police and warfare states, the Drug War, the relevance of history to current problems and solutions, and positive developments that drive humanity forward. She currently resides in Los Angeles, California, where she was born and raised.

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14 Comments

  1. No one will pay. The power elite of the Rockefellers, Johns Hopkins, and Big Pharma are resting easy. The fix is in. The fix is always in for the rich and powerful.

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  2. It'll take much much more than a few Guatemalan people to even have the Rockefeller, John Hopkins type people to even blink at this. It's sad that stuff like this goes unpunished because the sheep are choosing the color of a dress and watching the walking dead. And when they get serious they debate Ferguson and racial tension and whatever else the media fills their head with at the moment

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  3. 1 billion is not enough

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  4. Thanks for sharing this. Susan Reverby has done groundbreaking work for decades w related revelations

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  5. There is another class action suit against Johns Hopkins, for intentionally housing low income families in facilities with lead paint. Their study was to infect children with lead and complete a study. How does it feel to be a human guinea pig/lab rat? It almost sounds like the Nazi studies that were done on the Jews. To think how far we have come as a free society, and still allow this kind of treatment on our fellow man, it sickens me.

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  6. You don't need to watch the walking dead any more. It is going on outside right now, with millions of liberals!

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  7. Something is greatly amiss. I am 83 ye3ars young and I recall many years ago this was brought before the courts and a decision was rendered. Now, I would suspect the "statute of limitations" would prevail and make it extremely difficult to sort out any previously "overlooked" facts. Again, is this still another "ploy" to take our focus off of the current issues "burning all around us"? Perhaps we need to check out the Author, Carey Wedle, along with the many other authors who are submitting such issues. As some old said (paraphrased), "Are we stepping on ants while lions are leaping through the windows"? Carey, may we hear from you?

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  8. JHH has a history of exploiting their test subjects and patients. The local old-timers knew all about it….of so many going in to JHH and never coming home again. JHH is also notorious for exploiting Henrietta Lacks and creating the HeLa cell line using her tissue.

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  9. Perhaps, we need to stop believing our government! I don't think this is an "ant"!

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  10. Nazi scientist were hired by our government. A lot of people speculate that HIV and Ebola were both man-made. If I'm not mistaken, Lyme disease has a lot in common with syphilis virus. Now, they are finding out that Lyme disease can be contracted sexually

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  11. When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, you will know that it's desolation is near." The seventh angel blew his trumpet… Now is the time for destroying the destroyers of the earth!"

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  12. Why is this not in the MAINSTREAM MEDIA? Why is it not having congressional hearings on this? It should be more than obvious even to the casual observer that our medical system has been HYJACKED by drug companies! They hold the power from all the money they have extracted from ALL citizens of the United States and have massive marketing campaigns designed to obfuscate the truth while promoting their disease promoting drugs and remedies while suppressing the immune system and our ability to heal!

    The FDA does not run tests on drugs, but takes the information drug companies give them and evaluate those studies based on safety and only when the drugs are put into the public hands do the real results appear. It takes YEARS to remove a drug off the market after seen huge numbers of people being damaged and dying. By the time the drug is taken off the market, another drug is in the pipeline being introduced.

    ALL DRUGS are TOXINS. ALL drugs damage the body in some way. Acute medications are being used on chronic illnesses and for the most part suppress the immune system responses to germs, diseases, etc. I am sorely disappointed in John's Hopkin's for this kind of unethical actions!

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