Become a Patron
James H. Jones and Nancy M. P. King
James H. Jones and Nancy M. P. King, Bad Blood Thirty Years Later: a Q&a with James H. Jones, 40 Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics 867 (Winter 2012)
Historian James H. Jones published the first edition of Bad Blood, the definitive history of the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment, in 1981. Its clear-eyed examination of that research and its implications remains a bioethics classic, and the 30-year anniversary of its publication served as the impetus for the reexamination of research ethics that this symposium presents. Recent revelations about the United States Public Health Service study that infected mental patients and prisoners in Guatemala with syphilis in the late 1940s in order to determine the efficacy of treatment represent only one of the many attestations to the persistence of ongoing, critical, and under-addressed issues in research ethics that Bad Blood first explored. Those issues include, but are not limited to: the complex and contested matters of the value of a given research question, the validity of the clinical trial designed to address it, and the priorities of science; the therapeutic misconception, especially in the context of health disparities, poverty, and deprivation; the many varieties of vulnerability in research relationships, which extend far beyond vulnerable populations of potential subjects; and the irreducible complexity of the relationship between science and society.
We asked Dr. Jones to reflect on some key questions about the Tuskegee experiment, which are frequently raised by students of the study--and which also highlight critical features of the social context of human subjects research that are no less relevant today than they were then.