They Were Injected With STDs. Now They Want Justice
Federal judge gives go-ahead for $1B lawsuit on 'Guatemala Experiment'
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 1, 2017 3:13 PM CDT
The $1 billion lawsuit may proceed.   (Getty Images/Liuhsihsiang)

(Newser) – Nearly 850 victims and relatives are celebrating a "significant win" after a Baltimore federal judge allowed attorneys to proceed with a $1 billion lawsuit (initially dismissed last year) against Johns Hopkins University and others involving a 1940s offshore disease test. The Baltimore Sun reports on the "Guatemala Experiment," in which the US government secretly infected hundreds of Guatemalans with syphilis, gonorrhea, and other venereal diseases to study how STDs spread and how to treat them. The study—which was called out by a historian in 2010, prompting a public apology from then-President Obama—left in its wake a six-tiered list of victims, per the suit: the people who were actually experimented upon, their estates, spouses, first-generation descendants, descendants from generations that followed after, and family members who died from the diseases spread in the experiment.

In the suit, the plaintiffs describe how the experiment was carried out, including a prisoner injected with what he was told were "vitamins," as well as elementary-school students told they were being injected with something meant "to protect the children against diseases." The suit says Johns Hopkins doctors were on panels that reviewed and approved federal funds for the experiment; it also says employees of the nonprofit Rockefeller Foundation and the predecessor to Bristol-Myers Squibb, two other entities named as defendants, took part in the tests. "The private institutions have not [apologized] and have fought this every step of the way," says an attorney representing the plaintiffs. A planning meeting in the case is set for Sept. 15. Meanwhile, Kaiser Health News reports on the offshore testing of an experimental herpes vaccine, invested in by Trump backer Peter Thiel.

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