Johns Hopkins Faces Lawsuit Over Global STD Research image

The Kojo Nnamdi Show, April 7, 2015
Kojo Nnamdi, interviewing Holly F. Lynch (Executive Director)


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Between 1945 and 1956, American researchers knowingly exposed hundreds of Guatemalan villagers to sexually transmitted diseases without their knowledge. President Obama has formally apologized for the studies, which are now widely considered unethical. However, victims and their families have encountered numerous legal hurdles as they seek compensation. Last week, victims’ lawyers filed a lawsuit suit in Baltimore, seeking more than a billion dollars in compensation from Johns Hopkins University, where some of the original researchers were affiliated. Kojo explores what’s at stake in the case and why plaintiffs are coming forward now.

Executive Director Holly Fernandez Lynch said, “There was a Post-Doc fellow in Guatemala who suggested there was a scientific way to do the research: prostitutes who were infected in various ways [with STDs] could serve people in the prison and infect them that way. There was a factual and scientific reason that they went there, and that devolved into a variety of horrible and unethical experiments. The other point is that it is very worrisome to suggest that faculty members at various universities who provide a service to the NIH and other federal funding agencies should somehow get their institutions in hot water when they provide that service...People will be scared away and our scientific research will be the worse for it."

[...] "If institutions are worried that their faculty members are going to make the institutions liable, the institutions may crack down on their faculty members serving on these [types of research]," said Lynch. 

bioethics holly fernandez lynch human rights human subjects research i. glenn cohen public health