FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 13, 2011
Contact: HHS Press Office
Statement from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on the Bioethics Commission’s historical findings
Last November, following revelations of a highly unethical research project on sexually transmitted diseases conducted by the U.S. Public Health Service in Guatemala in the 1940s, President Obama asked his bioethics commission to oversee a fact-finding investigation into the specifics of the matter.
The President also asked the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues to determine whether current national and international research standards adequately protect the health and well-being of participants in studies supported by the U.S. government.
Today, the details of the historical investigation were made public. Although these events occurred more than 63 years ago, we are outraged that such reprehensible research could have occurred under the guise of public health and we deeply regret that it happened.
The U.S. government considers the protection of human subjects in research to be of paramount importance and requires all federally funded research on human subjects to adhere to the most stringent ethical guidelines. There are currently numerous safeguards in place in the United States to prohibit these types of unethical practices, and the commission’s review of current regulations and standards is part of the administration's ongoing effort to ensure we have the best possible human subject protection in the U.S. and around the world.
We fully support this in-depth investigation to help ensure that the unethical practices of the past will never happen again.
We thank the bioethics commission for its hard work on this important issue and we look forward to reviewing its report.
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Last revised: September 16, 2011