More than 750 plaintiffs are suing the Johns Hopkins Hospital System Corp. over its role in a series of medical experiments in Guatemala in the 1940s and 1950s during which subjects were infected with venereal diseases. The lawsuit in Baltimore seeks $1 billion in damages for individuals infected with syphilis, gonorrhea, and other sexually transmitted diseases through a US government program between 1945 and 1956, plus spouses and children of people infected. "Johns Hopkins welcomes bioethical inquiry into the US Government's Guatemala study and its legacy," a Hopkins rep tells the Baltimore Sun. "This lawsuit, however, is an attempt by plaintiffs' counsel to exploit a historic tragedy for monetary gain."
The suit claims Johns Hopkins officials had "substantial influence" over the studies, controlling some advisory panels, and were involved in planning and authorizing the experiments. An attorney for Hopkins calls the suit "baseless." It's the latest in a series of lawsuits over the studies. A federal judge in 2012 dismissed a lawsuit against the US government involving the same study. (Read more Johns Hopkins University stories.)