National Academies Statement on the 1940s Guatemalan Syphilis Studies
In October 2010, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) disclosed that the U.S. Public Health Service conducted studies in Guatemala in the late 1940s that intentionally infected institutionalized individuals with syphilis. At the same time, HHS asked the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to undertake a review of the history of the Guatemala study.
Since receiving the request from HHS, we have learned that at the time of the 1940s Guatemala study at least five individuals served simultaneously on the National Institutes of Health Study Section on Syphilis and the National Research Council’s Subcommittee on Venereal Diseases. The same individual served as chair of both groups. Because of these overlapping appointments between our institution and a body involved in the federal government’s syphilis research program, the National Academies should not conduct this historical review. The IOM has informed HHS that it is withdrawing from the assignment.
The National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council make up the National Academies. We are an independent, nonprofit institution that provides science, technology, and health policy advice under an 1863 congressional charter.