You can still find stories that make your blood run cold. Like  Panel Hears Grim Details of Venereal Disease Tests from Tuesday’s New York Times , which reported that in the late 1940s American scientists conducted Nazi-style experiments, with a Nazi-style coldness, on poor Guatemalans. (The experiments were discovered last year, but I missed the story then.)

The most offensive case, said John Arras, a bioethicist at the University of Virginia and a panelist, was that of a mental patient named Berta.

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.


The story reports that having read an article noting that experiments conducted on rabbits could not be conducted on people, he “order[ed] stricter secrecy about his work.”

Cutler, who went on to oversee the notorious Tuskegee experiments , died in 2003, after a successful career ending with a professorship at the University of Pittsburgh. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette  published a glowing obituary which included the grimly amusing remark of one of his colleagues that “”He was a pioneer who had firsthand experiences of living and working in the Third World.”

It is this kind of thing the psalmist laments (see 10:2, 8-10 and 92:7).

Articles by David Mills

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