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Johns Hopkins sued over sexually transmitted disease study

Published:Thursday | April 2, 2015 | 11:30 PMAP

UNITED STATES
BALTIMORE, (AP):
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 deliberately infected with venereal diseases without their consent.

The lawsuit in Baltimore seeks $1 billion in damages for individuals, spouses and children of people infected with syphilis, gonorrhea and other sexually transmitted diseases through a US government program between 1945 and 1956.

The suit claims officials at Johns Hopkins had "substantial influence" over the studies by controlling some panels that advised the federal government on how to spend research dollars. The suit also alleges that Hopkins and the Rockefeller Foundation, which is also named as a defendant, "did not limit their involvement to design, planning, funding and authorisation of the Experiments; instead, they exercised control over, supervised, supported, encouraged, participated in and directed the course of the Experiments."

The suit, which includes 774 plaintiffs, says the experiments were conducted abroad in order to give "researchers the opportunity to test additional methods of infecting humans with venereal disease easily hidden from public scrutiny."

According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, researchers initially infected Guatemalan sex workers with gonorrhea or syphilis, then allowed them to have sex with soldiers and prison inmates with the aim of spreading the disease.

The suit says that orphans, children and mental patients were also deliberately infected without their consent, and that treatment was withheld from some subjects.

Revelations of these experiments came to light in 2010. President Barack Obama apologised for the research, as did then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and then-Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius.