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Bad Blood: The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment, New and Expanded Edition [Paperback]

James H. Jones
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)

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Book Description

December 5, 1992 0029166764 978-0029166765 Revised
From 1932 to 1972, the United States Public Health Service conducted a non-therapeutic experiment involving over 400 black male sharecroppers infected with syphilis. The Tuskegee Study had nothing to do with treatment. It purpose was to trace the spontaneous evolution of the disease in order to learn how syphilis affected black subjects. The men were not told they had syphilis; they were not warned about what the disease might do to them; and, with the exception of a smattering of medication during the first few months, they were not given health care. Instead of the powerful drugs they required, they were given aspirin for their aches and pains. Health officials systematically deceived the men into believing they were patients in a government study of "bad blood", a catch-all phrase black sharecroppers used to describe a host of illnesses. At the end of this 40 year deathwatch, more than 100 men had died from syphilis or related complications. "Bad Blood" provides compelling answers to the question of how such a tragedy could have been allowed to occur. Tracing the evolution of medical ethics and the nature of decision making in bureaucracies, Jones attempted to show that the Tuskegee Study was not, in fact, an aberration, but a logical outgrowth of race relations and medical practice in the United States. Now, in this revised edition of "Bad Blood", Jones traces the tragic consequences of the Tuskegee Study over the last decade. A new introduction explains why the Tuskegee Study has become a symbol of black oppression and a metaphor for medical neglect, inspiring a prize-winning play, a Nova special, and a motion picture. A new concluding chapter shows how the black community's wide-spread anger and distrust caused by the Tuskegee Study has hampered efforts by health officials to combat AIDS in the black community. "Bad Blood" was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and was one of the "N.Y. Times" 12 best books of the year.

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Bad Blood: The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment, New and Expanded Edition + Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present + The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
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Editorial Reviews


The New York Times Book Review As an authentic, exquisitely detailed case study of the consequences of racism in American life, this book should be read by everyone who worries about the racial meanings of government policy and social practice in the United States.

The Washington Post Book World This is a valuable, superbly researched, fair-minded, profoundly troubling, and clearly written book.

C. Vann Woodward Author of The Strange Career of Jim Crow Bad Blood is an important book, an authentic and appalling study of how the educated deliberately deceived and betrayed the uneducated in our own times through a government agency."

Benjaminl Hooks Executive Director, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Bad Blood is a shocking and bold report of scientific cruelty and moral idiocy...The moral and ethical questions this book raises come into sharp focus and are compelling.

James T. Patterson Author of The Dread Disease: Cancer & Modern American Culture By eschewing sensationalism, Jones offers a compelling narrative that enhances our understanding of race relations in the twentieth-century South, of professionalism in medicine, and of American liberalism. Bad Blood deserves to win a prize.

About the Author

James H. Jones is associate professor of history at the University of Houston. He lives in Houston, Texas. He received his Ph.D. in history from Indiana University and has held a Kennedy Fellowship in Bioethics at Harvard University, served as a senior research fellow at the Kennedy Institute of Ethics at Georgetown University, and recently held senior fellowships from both the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Rockefeller Foundation. He published the first edition of Bad Blood in 1981 to critical acclaim. It was a Main Selection of the History Book Club and a New York Times Best Books of 1981 and has inspired a play, a PBS Nova special, and a motion picture.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; Revised edition (December 5, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0029166764
  • ISBN-13: 978-0029166765
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #143,654 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
39 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Doctors of Death February 27, 2000
"Bad Blood" is a carefully researched and excellently written account of one of the most horrendous and despicable acts perpetrated by the United States Government, the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment.

In 1932, four hundred illiterate and semi-literate black sharecroppers in Alabama who were diagnosed with syphilis were selected for an experiment sponsored by the U.S. Health Service, whose purport was to demonstrate that the course of untreated syphilis runs differently in blacks as opposed to whites. It was "race medicine" of the worst kind and, as a newspaper editorial stated when the experiment finally came to light 40 years later, it was ethically on a par with the medical experiments in the Nazi death camps.

The men selected for the study were for the most part uneducated (only one man had reached the eighth grade and none had gone to high school), they were never explained the purpose of the study, and they were given no medicine to help their advancing symptoms. Even after penicillin was found in the 1940s to halt or significantly reduce the symptoms of the disease, it was withheld from the patients, who were left to suffer horrible deaths from advanced syphilis one by one.

In 1972 the experiment was finally brought into the open by a young law student who passed the information to the Associated Press, and when the story broke on Page One of newspapers across the country, it caused a national firestorm. Journalists, public officials, and ordinary citizens were outraged by the news accounts. Incredibly, when the doctors involved in the experiment were asked for an accountability, their response was a collective shrug and a "so what?
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars or, How racism permeates... March 20, 2004
I am not a doctor, a researcher nor an ethicist. I am an African American woman who grew up in southern Virginia, has heard off-the-cuff references to the Tuskegee incident almost all of my conscious-life, and finally wanted to read its details. While I agree with one reviewer who pointed out that the text does not read like a "thriller," I found the writing easy to understand as an indictment of racism whether systemically or individually manifest. I appreciate that the author took great care to provide a general framework of how people respond to the medical establishment (e.g. "follow the doctor's orders") while also detailing the way by which the doctors deliberately manipulated that trust to ensure the compliance of rural black men and black members of the profession. The latter is important - the author shows compliance and allegiance among the black medical officials who were pulled into the experiment, subtly encouraged by monetary or status rewards. I also like how the author painstakingly pulled together the text of meetings, memos and memoirs to show how bureaucracy, tradition and group think work to create racist outcomes - it suggested a universality to it, not a "only in the medical establishment" or "only in the South" version of events. And the author's telling of how all the institutions and individuals, when caught, backpedaled or otherwise covered up their role in the experiment was just amazing... Highly recommended.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
One of the least known facts of U.S. history is the government sponsored syphilis experiment conducted upon 399 African-American men from 1932 to 1972. Over the course of these five decades, the U.S. Public Health Service exploited African-American sharecroppers in its effort to determine if the long-term affects of syphilis were different for black people than it was for white people. During the trials, the doctors who conducted the experimentations intentionally denied these men treatment; never informed them of syphilis' destructiveness to their health; and ignored the fact that these men were infecting their respective wives and sexual partners with the disease. As the experiments continued, doctors calculatedly deceived the subjects, informing them that they were suffering from what was categorized as: "bad blood". As the disease ravaged the minds and bodies of these unsuspecting men, no effort was made by the physicians of the Public Health Service to either inform them regarding the disease or provide them with treatment in an effort to curtail its devastating effects.

Jones presents a detailed, non-sensationalized writing that delves into the ignorance, racism and outright inhumanity that was entrenched throughout the United States; the medical arena; and society in general prior to and during these horrific experiments. He provides a plethora of documentation to substantiate the bigotry and callousness of the medical field during the era, and acknowledges the data provided by individuals who participated in the experiments or who conveyed valuable information.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Landmark worth reading August 8, 2000
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The "study" of the natural history of syphilis in black men is important to understand. Because it involved US federal funds and US federal researchers, it was a key demonstration that serious ethical problems in research were a mainstream event rather than a fringe problem; awareness of this project fueled concern for regulatory oversight and led to the development of federal regulations. James Jones' revelations were key to this process, and everyone involved in human subjects' research should read this book. Overall, the book is well researched and well presented. One of the more frightening aspects of Tuskegee is subtle, and doesn't get as thorough a treatment as it could have; that is, some of the outrageous features of the project were not the result of single outrageous decisions, but were rather the sum of many smaller errors. These are harder for a researcher to dismiss as things s/he could never have done. As a physician, I can comfortably say that I would never deliberately deny effective therapy to someone with a serious illness. But I can not as glibly say that I would have been the one to stand up and rebel when a protocol committee in the late 1940s or early 1950s decided that the evidence for penicillin's effectiveness in advanced syphilis was not QUITE good enough to mandate terminating the project. There are also some rough spots in some of the technical information, most glaringly a rather startlingly inaccurate description of what's involved in a spinal tap. Those are small issues, though. Overall, this is an excellent book that makes it abundantly clear why Tuskegee is so important to our thinking about research ethics, and helps the reader understand why certain racial and ethnic groups have a distrust of medical research.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Best book about the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment out there!
If you want to know the full details of this experiment, this is the book you want to read! I got it for class, but this book is so useful and informational I didn't sell it after... Read more
Published 4 months ago by M. Leung
5.0 out of 5 stars Really good
This book and this story are really important to read and share so that people can understand our past. I think that everyone should read this.
Published 5 months ago by Catherine
4.0 out of 5 stars Ethical Medicine and Anthropology
This is the classic look at ethics in medicine, presented for anthropologists of all ages interested in race and medicine. Classified under "Black Studies/History."
Published 5 months ago by Mark De Los Gatos
4.0 out of 5 stars Good book
I haven't finished reading it yet, but it's a very interesting, well-written, and eye-opening book. Very disturbing to know what our own public health officials have condoned in... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Emma Napolitano
5.0 out of 5 stars bad blood
well written and very useful for discussion groups in medical ethics and general ethics programs goes well with Henrietta Flacks
Published 11 months ago by Barbara B Patrick
5.0 out of 5 stars Still telling stories
As an Alabama native and a Tuskegee res I liked the book but still know that the truth has yet to be told
For those too young to know the facts, let me clear up the... Read more
Published 15 months ago by Afrikan
4.0 out of 5 stars excellent condition
The book arrived in a timely manner and was packaged to avoid damage while shipping.
Overall good quality product although the author was clearly quite ignorant on the people... Read more
Published 16 months ago by Lane Brown
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding information of history concerning my people
Bad Blood is with one of the most outstanding piece of work in dealing with the history of my people that has ever been put together in book form. Read more
Published on November 18, 2010 by Mitch
3.0 out of 5 stars important info, but could have been much more pithy
The author seemed to be trying to include as many quotes as possible to increase the number of pages in this book. The story could have been well told in one third the time. Read more
Published on May 2, 2010 by Austin mum
5.0 out of 5 stars Love It From Jump
I was into this book the first couple of pages. I knew I would enjoy reading the book. I highly recommend. I would also like to recommend the book on Henrietta Lacks. Read more
Published on April 12, 2010 by Big Sistah Patty
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