Peter Buxton

Exposing the Nazis of the Health Industry

The Tuskegee Incident

It was 1829 when members of the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) accompanied by the Rosenwald Fund began a myriad of secretive studies on the effects of syphilis, a venereal disease. In the course of their examinations, the USPHS had fostered the belief that Black individuals were more susceptible to the disease, and that there was certain racial variation that had tied to it, and began to run experiments on Southern Black share-croppers. The USPHS partnered with the Tuskegee Institute in the course of their studies as Tuskegee had a history of service to African Americans unlike other institutions of the time, and in return for their participation the establishment received money, intern training, among other bonuses. However the experiments performed for the benefits of venereal studies were not only unethical but horrific in their own right. Black males were infected with the disease by injections, (However in Guatemala prisons years before were other studies were conducted, they had been men contracted the disease from sex with infected prostitutes, specifically brought in for studies) and not told that they had the disease. The information was withheld from them, and all treatment was barred, aside from 'treatment' by USPHS doctors who would only say that the men had 'bad blood' and provide them with placebos or aspirin, letting them slowly wither away to discover the long term effects of syphilis on the human body. Specifically, the body of a black individual. Over 400 subjects were used for annual exams and blood tests, and another 200 without syphilis were monitored as well. These studies progressed all the way until 1972 where Peter Buxton finally intervened.
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The Targeting of African Americans

The choice of test subjects was defended with the ideas that African American share-croppers were used because there was a racist prevalence, and because these men were poor. They had been offered hot meals and free rides for participation, adding to that, Tuskegee was one of the only places that gave blacks treatment and had established a sort of trust. They had been guinea-pigs in an unbelievably immoral experiment because they had become easy to manipulate. Doctors reported with cruelty that the men were, "susceptible to kindness" and the rampant exploitation of poor blacks became a matter of false science, and unspeakable horror.
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About Peter Buxton

Peter Buxton was born in Czechoslovakia in 1937, just a few years before World War 2 broke out. It was at the Wars' very beginning in 1939 that Buxtons family fled Nazi occupied Czechoslovakia, and found their way into America. Buxton grew up in a world much different from the one he had left, and yet one that would hold dramatic ties with the old. He studied at the University of Oregon attaining a European History degree, he then went on to join the U.S. Army as a psychiatric social worker, providing services to mental health patients. In 1966, the 27 year old veteran became a venereal disease investigator for the USPHS in San Francisco. It was there when he first had begun to hear of the studies taking place at Tuskegee, and the more he learned the more horrified he became.
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Blowing the Whistle

Buxton had discovered during his time in San Francisco that the tests were being performed in Tuskegee since 1932, and he was moved to disclose the events that had been unfolding for a period of over thirty years. Buxton confronted the USPHS doctors, comparing what they had been doing to what had happened during the Nazi experiments in Nuremberg in 1947. He wrote a detailed report about the damage that innocent men were being allowed to endure, and he sent it up the line, understanding his job was at stake. The report received heavy criticism by doctors, many didn't see the relevance to Nuremberg and attempted to retort with the fact that the men participating were all "volunteers". Buxton valiantly took the side of the research subjects, and though the doctors didn't heed his words, he miraculously wasn't fired. Once again in 1968 Buxton challenged the USPHS writing now about the ignorance of the subjects about what was being done to them. Buxton urged to let the subjects free, provide them with compensation, and end the experiments rather than having the survivors slowly take to their graves; and once again he was ignored. It was only in 1972, after law school, when Buxton met a reporter of the Washington Star, who put the story in the paper, and it was at that moment that the word got out. The experiments came to an end shortly after the leak.
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Results of the Leak

The studies were scorned by President Kennedy, and a a public outcry came after Buxton had testified to Congress. However the doctors held their positions, defending themselves in the name of science, and settled on giving the survivors penicillin, but providing no compensation for what they had done otherwise. It was only after the survivors sued, that $10 million was provided to give back to those afflicted. Buxton's whistleblowing led to major changes in the medical field, especially changes in ethical codes and moral views. On the site of the experiments, a new bioethics research center was opened, and new laws were instituted regarding human research. Medical Ethics Committees were also established, usually made up of non-physician members, and in 1977 President Clinton made a formal apology touching on the ethical and racial boundaries crossed by the U.S. government. Buxton put an end to Tuskegee, and in doing so kept more experiments such as these from taking place in our age today.
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Thoughts on the Experiments

What happened at Tuskegee was absolutely and indisputably terrible, but to think that it was done in secrecy is even more frightening. It is events like those at Tuskegee, that come to radically change people's opinions of those governing them, and should never be taken lightly. It is surprising, how crucial of a change Buxton made and yet many never even hear about this incident. Even today, the experiments remain a sort of lucrative gem of the evils in medicine, tucked away in the recesses of history and information. However public it is, not nearly enough attention is given to what transpired. Men were left to die after being ruthlessly given a merciless disease, and in turn children died, and doctors prospered. This tale is a repulsive one, to even assume, without knowledge of the experiment, that people were capable of such things would be madness. Buxton said it elegantly enough in his comparison of USPHS doctors to Nazis, for the same sort of horrors had in fact transpired. Both pointless and demeaning in their ruthless executions, contesting the very limits of the medical field, and stepping over the border of pure torture. Tuskegee and events like it are shocking and hard to believe at times, but it is important that they leave us some sort of knowledge that we may not repeat our mistakes. Isolated events like these are the vaccinations of the world. They cleanse the industries, and make lives better. They are themselves acts in prevention in the end, and it is in this way they should be remembered.

Citations

WEBSITES:


KEDMAY, DAN. "The Tuskegee Experiment - Peter Buxtun (1972) | 10 Notorious Leakers and How They Fared | TIME.com." World Whats Next for Snowden 10 Notorious Leakers and How They Fared Comments. Web. 23 Dec. 2014.


KERR, DEREK, and MARIA RIVERO. "Whistleblower Peter Buxtun and the Tuskegee Syphilis Study." Whistleblower Peter Buxtun and the Tuskegee Syphilis Study. Web. 23 Dec. 2014. <http://www.whistleblower.org/blog/04302014-whistleblower-peter-buxtun-and-tuskegee-syphilis-study>.


Landau, Elizabeth. "Studies Show 'dark Chapter' of Medical Research." CNN. Cable News Network, 1 Oct. 2010. Web. 23 Dec. 2014. <http://www.cnn.com/2010/HEALTH/10/01/guatemala.syphilis.tuskegee/>.


Stocks, J.T. "Tuskegee Syphilis Study."Tuskegee Syphilis Study. Web. 23 Dec. 2014. <https://www.msu.edu/user/sw/ethics/tuskg.html>.


PHOTOGRAPHS:

Buxton

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/3f/Peter_Buxtun.jpg


Injection

http://0.static.wix.com/media/10944cdf52f8dbe7b380abd22b542777.wix_mp_1024


Health, Education, and Welfare

http://www.usrf.org/uro-video/Tuskegee_2004/Figure%201%20(B)Eunice-Rivers&USPHS.jpg


Nurse Rivers

http://globalbioethicsdotnet.files.wordpress.com/2013/10/nurse_rivers_paperwork.jpg


Trio

http://health-equity.pitt.edu/341/1/Drs_%26_Nurse_at_table.jpg


Rivers in the Fields

http://www.usrf.org/uro-video/Tuskegee_2004/Figure%201(A)Eunice-Rivers.jpg


Wheelchair

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Closeup Injection

http://1muept1cdko63rjgpkpk3km7xp.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/male_blood_test-1024x537.jpg


Buxton Current

http://www.whistleblower.org/sites/default/files/Buxtun.png


Congressional Hearing
http://www.issues4life.org/images/tuskegeepeterbuxtun.jpg