Descendants of the victims of what is called the Tuskegee syphilis experiment are now seeking to be awarded the remaining money from a $9 million out-of-court legal settlement over the infamous experiment.
Claiming Settlement Money
Earlier this year, the Trump administration filed documents stating that the unclaimed money from the settlement funds should be reverted back to the federal government as per the 1975 settlement.
Now, the Voices of our Fathers Legacy Foundation addressed a letter to Federal District Judge Myron Thompson requesting for him to wait until they've hired a lawyer and filed the proper documents before making a decision on the matter.
According to foundation president Lillie Tyson Head, the money could be used to pay for the college scholarships, develop memorial gardens, or even be given to a the Tuskegee Human and Civil Rights Multicultural Center which has requested for the funds, stating that the settlement money was supposed to go to the descendants of the victims anyway.
Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment
In 1932, the Public Health Service began conducting a study they entitled "Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male," hoping to provide justification for the treatment programs for African-Americans.
Around 600 men participated in the study — 399 of them with syphilis and 201 without. It did not involve giving the patients' informed consent and were merely told that they were being tested for "bad blood," which at the time was being used to refer to a number of illnesses such as anemia, syphilis, and fatigue.
None of the men received any treatment for their sicknesses. In 1947, when penicillin had become a known drug for syphilis, none were even offered with the drug. Instead, they were given free meals, free medical exams, and burial insurance. The study, which was only expected to last for six months, went on for the next 40 years.
In 1972, an Associated Press story about the experiment gained much attention. As a result of the public outcry, an AdHoc Advisory Panel with nine members from different fields was appointed to investigate the case. What they found was that although the 600 participants had freely agreed to participate in the study, they were misinformed and misled about the nature of the study.
After the study was classified as "ethically unjustified," the study ended in October of 1972. By 1973, a class-action lawsuit was filed on behalf of the 600 participants and their families, and by 1974, a $10 million settlement was reached.
Part of the settlement was for the U.S. government to provide burial services and lifetime medical services to all the participants who were still alive, and by 1995, wives, widows, and children of the participants were added to the program. Health and medical benefits were added to the program in 1995.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is responsible for the program.
The last experiment participant died in 2004.