Guatemalans on Saturday slammed a US confession that it led a 1940s study in the Central American country in which hundreds of people were deliberately infected with sexually transmitted diseases.
"No matter how much of a superpower it is, the United States cannot do this kind of experimentation," Nery Rodenas, the chief of the human rights office at the archbishop of Guatemala's office, told reporters.
"They used Guatemalans as lab rats. It is important that family members receive some kind of compensation."
Lawmaker Zury Rios also urged compensation for not only the victims, but the nation as a whole.
"It is just not enough to say you are sorry. We need to be compensated as a (sovereign) State, maybe with the funding of a solid sex and reproductive health program," she insisted.
In a phone conversation with President Alvaro Colom on Friday, US President Barack Obama expressed his deep regret for the experiment conducted by US public health researchers in Guatemala between 1946 and 1948, and apologized "to all those affected."
The study, which was never published, came to light this year after Wellesley College professor Susan Reverby stumbled upon archived documents outlining the 1940s experiment led by controversial US public health doctor John Cutler.
Cutler and his fellow researchers enrolled people in Guatemala, including mental patients, for the study, which aimed to find out if penicillin, relatively new in the 1940s, could be used to prevent sexually transmitted diseases.
"There is no evidence study participants gave informed consent, and in fact... the subjects were often deceived about what was being done to them," Collins told reporters as he outlined the experiment's most flagrant ethics violations.
Cutler, was also involved in a highly controversial study known as the Tuskegee Experiment in which hundreds of African American men with late-stage syphilis were observed but given no treatment for 40 years, between 1932 and 1972.
Initially, the researchers infected female Guatemalan commercial sex workers with gonorrhea or syphilis, and then allowed them to have unprotected sex with soldiers or prison inmates.
A total of some 1,500 people took part in the study. At least one patient died during the experiments, although it is not clear whether the death was from the tests or from an underlying medical problem.
"This news makes me furious," capital resident Cindy Aceituno told Prensa Libre. "This just confirms that the United States and capitalism disregard human rights."
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