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March 1982

Bad Blood

Arch Dermatol. 1982;118(3):212. doi:10.1001/archderm.1982.01650150074033

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This book is a detailed reportorial and well-annotated account of a Public Health Service study of 399 black men with syphilis in Macon County, Alabama, from whom adequate treatment of their disease was intentionally withheld for 40 years. Most of these subjects were said to have had late latent or tertiary syphilis. Another 201 black men served as control subjects.

The study began innocently enough as a syphilis detection and treatment campaign conducted by the Public Health Service but was partly supported by the Rosenwald Fund. When the fund's money was withdrawn, the same group of subjects was employed, from 1932 on, to evaluate the spontaneous course of syphilis. The intention was to compare the results of disease progression in these subjects with those of the famed Norwegian study (using white men by Bruusgaard, for which patient recruitment had ceased in 1910, the year that Ehrlich first described the use

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