News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Thurs. Mar. 10, 2011: Seven hundred Guatemalans who were infected with syphilis in an experiment could force the U.S. government to pay big time.
Law firms representing the victims said the United States intentionally infected the Guatemalans between 1946 and 1948 in an effort to study the effects of the disease. They are threatening a class action lawsuit, unless Uncle Same offers a way to settle their claims before Friday.
Hundreds of Guatemalan prisoners, orphans and mentally ill patients were infected, without their consent, to study the effects of penicillin. The secret study carried out by US scientists took place in Guatemala between 1946 and 1948.
The study was unearthed by Prof Susan Reverby at Wellesley College in the US. The Guatemalan government of the day gave permission for the tests, she said.
The Obama administration acknowledged the experiments in October.
“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,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said 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.”
While the complaint mentions that there were at least 700 test subjects, it only lists seven plaintiffs — all are either the direct victims of the testing or their legal heirs.”
Lawyers said in a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder that the lawsuit, which could become a class-action, will be filed in federal court in Washington unless President Barack Obama’s administration responds positively to the settlement offer by Friday.