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Disturbing STD Experiments on Guatemalans by the U.S. Revealed

6:44 pm in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

An article written by Susan M. Reverby, a professor of women’s studies at Wellesley College, has uncovered details on a study conducted between 1946 and 1948 in Guatemala, which involved experiments on Guatemalans. Essentially, the Public Health Service (PHS) inoculated people with syphilis.

On RAW STORY, an excerpt from the synopsis of the article explains the same doctor, Dr. John C. Cutler, who would later be part of the Syphilis Study in Alabama in the 1960s (and who would defend the study for two decades until its end in the 1990s), and other physicians:

…“chose men in the Guatemala Penitentiary, then in an army barracks, and men and women in the National Mental Health Hospital for a total of 696 subjects. Permissions were gained from the authorities but not individuals, not an uncommon practice at the time, and supplies were offered to the institutions in exchange for access. The doctors used prostitutes with the disease to pass it to the prisoner (since sexual visits were allowed by law in Guatemalan prisons) and then did direct inoculations made from syphilis bacteria poured onto the men’s penises or on forearms and faces that were slightly abraded when the “normal exposure” produced little disease, or in a few cases through spinal punctures. Unlike in Alabama, the subjects were then given penicillin after they contracted the illness. However, whether everyone was then cured is not clear and not everyone received what was even then considered adequate treatment.

Yet the PHS was aware then that this was a study that would raise ethical questions. For as Surgeon General Thomas Parran made clear “’You know, we couldn’t do such an experiment in this country.”4 Deception was the key here as it had been in Tuskegee. Much of this was kept hushed even from some of the Guatemalan officials and information about the project only circulated in selected syphilology circles. When it proved difficult to transfer the disease and other priorities at home seemed more important, Cutler was told to pack up and come back to the States.”

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius have issued an apology on behalf of the U.S.

Revelations about these experiments likely remind Americans of the Tuskegee Experiments. This involved the Public Health Service enrolling 400 poor black men in a study to see how syphilis spread and killed people. The men that were enrolled were not told they had syphilis but were instead told they had “’bad blood,’ a local term used to describe several illnesses including syphilis, anemia and fatigue.” When the study began, no cure existed for syphilis, but in 1947, penicillin had been discovered to be a “standard cure” for the disease. Despite that, the medication was withheld from the men so the study could continue at the Tuskegee Institute in Macon County, Ala.

This report on experiments on Guatemalans may also lead one to think of what the Nazis did to Jews. It is well known that at Auschwitz and Buchenwald the Nazis engaged in human experimentation. Dr. Josef Mengele is remembered for experimenting on around 1,500 sets of twins (only 100 survived).

It may seem like there is no Nazi connection between what happened in Guatemala and what the Nazis did to the Jews. However, revoltingly, a footnote reference, which Raw Story cites in its write-up on these revealed experiments, explains how experimentation was boosted by what happened with the Nazis:

“…Ironically, the biggest boost to such experimentation came as a result of the postwar Nuremberg trial of 20 Nazi doctors, which gave rise to the Nuremberg Code, a set of principles intended to prohibit human experimentation without subjects’ consent. When defense lawyers implied that American scientists had conducted wartime research analogous to that of the Nazis, one prosecution witness, Andrew C. Ivy, cited malaria experiments involving Illinois prisoners as an example of "ideal," noncoercive research. Ivy’s 1948 publication of his conclusions helped to institutionalize prison experimentation for the next quarter-century.”

In other words, Americans made certain future human experimentation was “ideal” and that was how they made their experiments seem different from the Nazi doctors who were clearly responsible for the butchering of human life.

Reverby’s article provides details of human experiments in American prisons:

“In 1944 the PHS had done experiments on prophylaxis in gonorrhea at the Terre Haute Federal Penitentiary in the United States. In this prison, the “volunteers” were deliberately injected with gonorrhea (which can be cultured), but the PHS had found it difficult to get the men to exhibit infection and the study was abandoned.”

This was often done without the consent of prisoners.

Today, we may think we have abandoned practices of human experimentation that doctors and scientists sought to use to make advancements in medical science. The awful truth is that America has conducted experiments on detainees captured in the “war on terror” and experimented on them to figure out what torture and abuse causes “pain” and what doesn’t and how long human beings can tolerate it before permanent damage is done to a human being.

On August 6, it was reported that during interrogations physicians were present to document the effects of torture. They were brought in to determine what the risks of waterboarding were to human beings. They understood that drowning, hypothermia, aspiration pneumonia, or laryngospasm could result from waterboarding but intentionally ignored “clinical experience/research” and assured lawyers “there was no ‘medical reason’ to believe that waterboard [would] lead to physical pain.”

The doctors actually went so far as to recommend adding salt to the water so patients would not experience hyponatremia, “a condition of low sodium levels in the blood caused by free water intoxication.” 

This was detailed in a report published by the group, Physicians for Human Rights, and more can be read about what the report detailed here.

How does a society explain the continued existence of organizations and entities within government and society, which find it permissible to allow individuals to experiment on humans? That find it allowable to create excuses for such experimentation?

I posit it has everything to do with who the subjects are. Those aware of history know America was afraid of leftist movements taking power in Guatemala and threatening American interests. Blacks were suffering under Jim Crow Laws when the Tuskegee Experiments were carried out. Felons in prisons were criminals and understandably considered the lowest of humans on Earth. And, of course, the detainees at Guantanamo and other prisons are and have been regarded as "terrorists." 

When humans dehumanize other humans, any form of brutality can be committed. Any callous act can be carried out.

It isn’t just that there are a few bad apples that produce these atrocious episodes in American history. As Philip Zimbardo would likely suggest, systems in place – political, economical, and legal –  turn people into monsters. 

Americans can shrug off revelations of torture and abuse and medical experiments on detainees but, understand, that episode is no anomaly. It will happen again. And, since Americans did not raise their voices loud enough and demand accountability and justice when Bush Administration officials were found to have created legal justification for torture, abuse and medical experimentation, atrocities will likely occur again in the not-so-distant future — atrocities that one can compare to the Tuskegee Experiments and thes new revelations on U.S. experiments on Guatemalans.

More on How Physicians Became Torture Doctors for CIA

9:01 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

 

 

 

A good amount of documentation on the involvement of psychologists in the torture and abuse of detainees or “terror suspects.” And, a new study provides even more revelations on the involvement of physicians making it increasingly clear that medical professionals put limits on ethical standards they were expected to follow in order to help the CIA interrogate detainees.

 

The study, titled “Roles of CIA Physicians in Enhanced Interrogation and Torture of Detainees,” authored by Leonard S. Rubinstein, the president of Physicians for Human Rights, and Brigadier General (ret.) Stephen N. Xenakis, a former Army psychiatrists (who is now with the Center for Public Health and Human Rights), utilizes a previously secret document from 2004 and lays out the “guidelines for detainee interrogation” that physicians, psychologists, and other health care professionals developed and followed so they could serve the CIA.

 

Guidelines indicate the doctors, who were working for the CIA’s Office of Medical Services, conducted medical evaluations [experimentations] on detainees “before and during interrogations” and waterboarding “required the presence of a physician.”

 

Physicians documented the effects of “enhanced interrogation techniques” [torture] like waterboarding and decided waterboarding “created risks of drowning, hypothermia, aspiration pneumonia, or laryngospasm.” They ignored “clinical experience/research” and assured lawyers “there was no ‘medical reason’ to believe that waterboarding [would] lead to physical pain.”

 

It was established that “cramped confinement could result in deep vein thrombosis” and death could result from “lengthy exposure to cold water.” And, the physicians, psychologists, and other health care professionals working for the CIA developed “limitations” so that techniques like waterboarding, cramped confinement, sensory deprivation, stress positions, etc could be used on detainees.

 

Limitations included: “exposure to specified temperature either up to time of hypothermia would develop or on evidence of hypothermia,” dietary restrictions up to “body weight loss of 10% or evidence of significant malnutrition,” “exposure to noise just under decibel levels associated with hearing loss,” up to 48 hours of exposure to stress positions “provided hands were no higher than the head” of a detainee, and no more than eight consecutive hours or eighteen hours per day of “confinement in a box.”

 

Much of this took place after 2003, after a CIA Inspector General investigation of “enhanced interrogation techniques” [torture], OMS physicians were asked to provide “opinions to the agency and lawyers on whether techniques used would be expected to cause severe pain or suffering and thus constitute torture.” Slowly, OMS physicians’ work for the CIA transformed into work, which violated “ethical standards,” prohibiting physicians from using “medical skills to facilitate torture or be present when torture is taking place.”

 

The physicians consulted directly with Department of Justice lawyers and were asked to provide legal cover by supporting “legal decisions” that “interrogators who applied enhanced interrogation techniques neither inflicted sever mental or physical pain or anguish and thus did not commit torture.” For techniques like sleep deprivation, they claimed the use thereof “could not lead to profound disruption in the detainees’ senses or personality (the legal definition of psychological torture).”

 

As suggested in the opening paragraph, it has been evident that physicians and psychologists have been involved in torture for some time, especially since Wikileaks leaked the Guantanamo Standard Operating Procedures Manual in November 2007.

 

The manual indicated that, “incoming prisoners were to be held in near-isolation for the first [four] weeks to foster dependence on interrogators and `enhance and exploit the disorientation and disorganization felt by a newly arrived detainee in the interrogation process.’” It outlines how isolation was to be used on detainees, a technique Physicians for Human Rights said can lead to symptoms of “`bewilderment, anxiety, frustration, dejection, boredom, obsessive thoughts or ruminations, depression, and, in some cases, hallucination’” and, if prolonged, could result in “increased stress, abnormal neuroendocrine function, changes in blood pressure and inflammatory stress responses.”

 

Then, it was known those involved understood how they could be prosecuted for violating international law. As an April 16, 2003, memo from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld explained 

"Caution: the use of isolation as an interrogation technique requires detailed implementation instructions, including specific guidelines regarding the length of isolation, medical and psychological review, and approvals for extension of the length of by the appropriate level in the chain of command. This technique is not know to have been generally used for interrogation purposes for longer than 30 days. Those nations that believe that detainees are subject to POW protections may view use of this technique as inconsistent with the requirements of Geneva III, Article 13 which provides that POWs must be protected against acts of intimidation; Article 14 which provides that POWs are entitled to respect for their person; Article 34 which prohibits coercion and Article 126 which ensures access and basic standards of treatment. Although the provisions of Geneva are not applicable to the interrogation of unlawful combatants, consideration should be given to these views prior to application of this technique."

  

The report is yet another indication of the need for more investigation, accountability, and reform from the Obama Administration. Yet, as demonstrated by a comprehensive report ("Establishing the New Normal") from the ACLU, the Obama Administration has avoided its obligation to accountability for torture and chosen to follow the dangerous mantra of “looking forward, not back,” a false choice because, as the ACLU states in the report:

 

“a strong democracy rests not on the goodwill of its leaders but on the impartial enforcement of laws. Sanctioning impunity for government officials who authorized torture sends a problematic message to the world, invites abuses by future administrations, and further undermines the rule of law that is the basis of any democracy.”