A White House bioethics commission has revealed gruesome new details about venereal disease experiments from 1946 to 1948 in which U.S. medical officials intentionally infected Guatemalan sex workers, prisoners, soldiers and mental patients with syphilis in order to study the effects of penicillin. The commission concluded that nearly 5,500 Guatemalans were subjected to diagnostic testing — without their consent — and more than 1,300 were exposed to venereal diseases by contact or inoculations.
was that of a mental patient named Berta, he described. “She was first deliberately infected with syphilis and, months later, given penicillin. After that, Dr. John C. Cutler of the Public Health Service, who led the experiments, described her as so unwell that she ‘appeared she was going to die.’ Nonetheless, he inserted pus from a male gonorrhea victim into her eyes, urethra and rectum. Four days later, infected in both eyes and bleeding from the urethra, she died.”