Obama bioethics panel: Teach history of US-led STD experiments on Guatemalans

A study guide on the experiments was released Thursday by a federal panel that encouraged using the document to discuss ethics.

The Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues suggested students, book clubs and offices discuss the U.S.-led experiments, which took place in the 1940s and harmed thousands. 


"Encouraging people to talk about what happened in Guatemala, and to think and to learn about ethics is another way to both honor the memory of the victims and help ensure that society learns from these offenses," said panel Chairwoman Amy Gutmann. 

The bioethics commission probed the experiments last year after they were unearthed by a college professor. 

The panel found that government health researchers between 1946 and 1948 had intentionally exposed thousands in Guatemala to deadly diseases, without their consent, for the purpose of testing penicillin.

In 2011, Gutmann described the U.S. actions, which included infecting a woman with gonorrhea in her eyes as she died of syphilis, as "chillingly egregious." 

President Obama apologized to Guatemalan President Álvaro Colom Caballeros for the study in 2010. Victims of the experiments are still trying to sue the U.S. government for damages.

In its 50-page study guide, the bioethics commission compiles historical records, poses discussion questions and recommends further reading.

"This material will assist readers who wish to explore the record in further detail or prepare for a more informed discussion of research in light of this gross violation of ethics," the paper states.