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Bad Blood: The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment, New and Expanded Edition Revised Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 37 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0029166765
ISBN-10: 0029166764
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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.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; Revised edition (January 15, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0029166764
  • ISBN-13: 978-0029166765
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.9 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #95,988 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
"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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Format: Paperback
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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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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Format: Paperback
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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