After reading the Tuskgee Study I found myself asking one question; did the Tuskgee Study help scientists better understand syphilis? Obviously it showed several ways on how not to conduct scientific research, but did the study find any new information to help scientist treat/cure/prevent syphilis? I am still not sure what the goal of the Tuskgee Study was, or if there was a goal at all. It seems to me that whatever the goal was it was lost during the course of the study. Whatever you blame this failure on, (the Great Depression, lack of funding, poor management) the study became another chapter of embarrassing American racism. This brings up another question; did the people conducting the study realize that they were being racist? To say something is racist one has to make an ethical judgment on a situation. Like many scientist of the day a majority of the people conducting the Tuskgee Study believed that ethics were not a relevant part of science. John Heller, who was the director of the Venereal Diseases unit of the PHS from 1943 to 1948 said in a 1981 interview that, “The men's status did not warrant ethical debate. They were subjects, not patients; clinical material, not sick people.” This shows that many of the scientists during this time period did not believe that they were being bigots or racist, but does it grant them forgiveness? If anything was learned from this study, I hope it was that ethics should be a part of scientific research and should be used in every aspect of it.
(Also, if anyone can find anything about how the study helped the scientific community better understand syphilis please share it.)