In 1928, the penicillin was discovered. It was a powerful medicine with numerous possibilities to cure diseases. Doctors all over the world tried to find out new ways of using it. One of the theories stated that the penicillin could treat and prevent the syphilis and other sexually transmitted diseases. In order to prove this theory, the Guatemala Syphilis Experiment was begun.
This experiment took place between 1946 and 1948. It was led and sponsored by the United States Public Health Service under the guidance of the physician John Charles Cutler. The Guatemala Experiment was one of the most horrible and inhumane in the history of the United States. It was so, because healthy people, without giving permission, were infected. Americans used the situation in Guatemala, where the prostitution was legal. Moreover, there was legal for prostitutes to visit prisons and provide their services. During this experiment, the prostitutes, who were infected syphilis and other diseases, were paid by the American government for having sex with prisoners. As a result, approximately 696 people were exposed to syphilis, 772 to gonorrhea and 142 to cancroid, with infection rates of 61%, 30% and 97%, respectively. All of them were given penicillin but in different dosage. It led to deaths among participants. At least 300 people died.
This experiment violated human rights. First of all, because researchers did obtain permission for their studies from the prisons and other institutions with which they worked, they
did not receive permission from the inmates or their families. They infected people, who were not informed, with a fatal disease, without having insurance that they could cure them.
Taking into account all the consequence, in 2010 the American Government formally apologies to the Guatemala government and its people. But for Guatemalans it is not enough. In spite of having been run only for two years, the experiment had the impact on individuals and families for over 50 years.