U.S. apologizes to Guatemalans for secret STD experiments
U.S. scientific researchers infected hundreds of Guatemalan mental patients with sexually transmitted diseases from 1946 to 1948 — a practice that only came recently to light thanks to the work of an academic researcher. On Friday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius issued a formal apology to the Central American nation, and to Guatemalan residents of the United States.”Although these events occurred more than 64 years ago, we are outraged that such reprehensible research could have occurred under the guise of public health,” said Clinton and Sebelius in a joint statement. “We deeply regret that it happened, and we apologize to all the individuals who were affected by such abhorrent research practices.”
“It was done in conjunction with the Guatemalan government,” Reverby told The Upshot in a phone interview Friday morning. “They had permission from the Guatemalan government.”
“I was in the archives of the University of Pittsburgh looking at the papers of the surgeon general at the time,” Reverby said. “And the papers there were also the papers of a man named John Cutler, who had also been involved in the Tuskegee study. When I opened the boxes of the Cutler papers, there was nothing in it about Tuskegee, but there was everything about this Guatemala study.”
Reverby — who was instrumental in getting former President Bill Clinton to offer an apology for the Tuskegee experiment in 1997 — told us that she informed Dr. David Sencer, the former head of the Centers for Disease Control; Sencer then passed the discovery up the chain of command in the U.S. government.
“As with many of these things, it was just pure serendipity,” Reverby said. “I was the right person in the right place at the right time.”
Hilary did what is expected at times like this, she apologized on behalf of America. I don’t have a problem with that, especially because we are a democratic nation and we are basically responsible for what our elected leaders do. But it also reminded me of the seeming contradictory logic and selective outrage behind the modern collective apology. If the experiments were carried out during the administration of Harry Truman, a Democrat, why is a collective apology required from our nation, but not from the Democratic Party that Truman belonged to? Why did Hillary apologize on behalf of America, but not the Democrat party? When will Dems apologize for the the past sins of their party (like slavery and segregation), just as Republicans are eternally expected to for whatever it is they opposed in the late 60s? Well, you might respond that the Democrat party has changed since the bad ol days of Harry Truman and segregation, and modern Dems have nothing to do with all that. And that may be true. But has not the Republican party changed too? Has not conservatism changed as well? So why do we hold nations accountable, but not the people who actually voted for Harry Truman (the Dems), and why do Dems get the big pass but not Republicans or conservatives? Hmmm. Collective apologies like this always make me wonder about that.