Updated 04:21 PM EDT, Mon, Oct 19, 2020

U.S. Secretly Infected Guatemalans with STDs to Test Drugs?: Guatemalan Government to Investigate Cases, Compensation for the Victims’ Families in Consideration

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The Guatemalan government is investigating the cases of the victims of a secret medical testing conducted by the United States in the 1940s.

From 1946-48, a U.S. medical research project conducted tests to more than 5,500 Guatemalan citizens who were deliberately infected with venereal diseases without their knowledge, including sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) syphilis, gonorrhea, and chancroid, teleSUR listed.

Health officials exposed or contaminated prisoners, prostitutes, soldiers, and mental patients with these diseases, the Tico Times reported. The U.S. presidential commission said that at least 83 of those involved in the experiment died. The objective was to observe the effects of antibiotic.

"We will explore the possibilities of attention both within the government of Guatemala while we have also informed the United States Embassy," Guatemalan Vice President Juan Alfonso Fuentes Soria said on Tuesday, as quoted by teleSUR.

Prior to his announcement, the vice president met with a family in which three people suffered the repercussions of the covert medical testing. The family said they felt "neglected" and called for more "economic and moral reparations," the news outlet further reported. The Tico Times added that the government could opt for providing financial assistance to the family.

Soria also announced that he will meet with the appropriate U.S. Embassy officials to examine and discuss the case, teleSUR noted.

In 2010, U.S. President Barack Obama apologized to the subjects of the medical project and called it as a "crime against humanity," the Tico Times reported. He also vowed to provide reparation, but made no precise offer of compensation.

The unethical study was publicized by Dr. Susan Reverby, a professor at Wellesley College in the U.S., the news outlet wrote. She discovered the experiment while researching notes left behind by the deceased John Charles Cutler, a public health services sexual disease specialist whom led the experiment.

Cutler was also involved in another notorious U.S. medical research -- called the Tuskegee syphilis experiment -- that lasted for half a century up to 1972, the Tico Times reported. The research studied the progression of untreated syphilis in poor black residents in Alabama.

Last April, a $1 billion lawsuit was filed against Johns Hopkins University and the Rockefeller Foundation for assisting in conducting the unethical study in Guatemala, according to CNN. The suit has 774 plaintiffs and included people who were subjects in the experiments and their descendants.

A class-action federal lawsuit was also filed in 2012 over the Guatemalan experiment, CNN added. The lawsuit was dismissed by a judge, who said that Guatemalans could not sue the U.S. for grievances that took place in international territories.

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