Nearly 800 plaintiffs have launched a billion-dollar lawsuit against Johns Hopkins University over its alleged role in the deliberate infection of hundreds of vulnerable Guatemalans with sexually transmitted diseases, including syphilis and gonorrhoea, during a medical experiment programme in the 1940s and 1950s.
which also names the philanthropic Rockefeller Foundation, alleges that
both institutions helped “design, support, encourage and finance” the
experiments by employing scientists and physicians involved in the
tests, which were designed to ascertain if penicillin could prevent the
Researchers at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine held
“substantial influence” over the commissioning of the research programme
by dominating panels that approved federal funding for the research,
the suit claims.
The lawsuit asserts that a researcher paid by the
Rockefeller Foundation was assigned to the experiments, which he
travelled to inspect on at least six occasions.
The suit also
claims that predecessor companies of the pharmaceutical giant
Bristol-Myers Squibb supplied penicillin for use in the experiments,
which they knew to be both secretive and non-consensual.
experiments, which occurred between 1945 and 1956, were kept secret
until they were discovered in 2010 by a college professor, Susan
Reverby. The programme published no findings and did not inform
Guatemalans who were infected of the consequences of their
participation, nor did it provide them with follow up medical care or
inform them of ways to prevent the infections spreading, the lawsuit