The Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male was conducted in 1932 by the Public Health Service and involved the participation of 600 African American men without their informed consent for study participation (CDC, 2017). The study lasted until 1972 when information on the study was made public and an outcry arose regarding the improper treatment of participants and unethical practices employed in the completion of the study (CDC, 2017).
An investigation was started and the study was found to be ethically unjustified (CDC, 2017). In 1973 a class action lawsuit was filed on behalf of the participants and their families and in 1974 the U.S. government settled out of court for $10 million dollars; in addition, the settlement also included lifetime medical benefits and burial services for all participants still living (CDC, 2017).

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If I were a white health care worker in the African American community and there were clients who distrusted my presence working in the community as a result of the Tuskegee study, I would request to sit down with them in a one on one setting and ask them what aspects of the study they were familiar with. I would then explain to them why the study was unethical, including the lack of informed consent, and I would explain how procedures have changed since that time in order to ensure that they, as patients, received the best care possible in the most ethical manner.

I would then ask them to elaborate on their areas of concern and I would do my best to ally and assuage their fears and worries, while at the same time showing that I was doing the best I could for them through the application of best practices in the provision of medical services.

  • CDC. (2017). Tuskegee study – Timeline. Retrieved from