The Tuskegee Study: Autonomy And Truthfulness

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From 1932-1972, the Tuskegee Study was performed on vulnerable African-American men in Macon County, Alabama. The study, sponsored by the U.S. Public Health Service, was created to learn about the natural ways of syphilis. Syphilis was a disease that was growing at an alarming rate. Researchers longed to understand and treat syphilis. The Tuskegee Study was put into place to find out how the disease progressed. At the time, the question of how syphilis progresses seemed legitimate, but the cruel reality of the study was not revealed until 1972. This study was unethical because it violated at least two of the main principles of bioethics: autonomy and truthfulness. The argument given in this paper uses the modus ponens and deontological…show more content…
This is a principle that reflects philosophers such as John Stuart Mill agreed that patients have the right to make an informed decision about their medical treatment. In other words, patients have the right to deny or accept treatment. The principle of autonomy refuses to believe in paternalism or the idea that the doctor should make the decisions. The Tuskegee Study violated this principle because the patients were never had the option of an educated consent and the doctors did what they thought was “best” for the men. The men treated and involved in the study were never given the right to deny or accept the treatment. In fact, all the African-American men were told was that they had contaminated blood and needed treatment. The doctors made all the decisions. Other key facts that was not told to the men were simply what syphilis was and did not know that they were participating in a government…show more content…
Truthfulness is a universal principle that was extremely violated during the Tuskegee study. The principle of truthfulness is one that states that when someone is entitled to facts, it should be told to them to allow them to be educated about what the person is going through. Truth should not be kept away from the patient. Philosopher Immanuel Kant's views can be seen through this principle due to his stance on manipulation. By withholding the truth, a person has the risks of being manipulated into doing a task that they normally would not do. The Tuskegee Study violated this principle in two ways. First, the researchers in the study did not tell the men about the dangers of the treatment, to the sexual partners and the children. The doctors never told the men that spinal taps can be harmful or that syphilis could ever be transferred through sexual intercourse and to children. By withholding these key facts, the researchers were putting these men and their families into danger. Second, the doctors never informed the patients of the treatment that could cure them of syphilis. In 1947, penicillin became the primary treatment for syphilis. The doctors never told of the men of this treatment and never made it available to

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