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Bad Blood: The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  610 ratings  ·  48 reviews
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. Its 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 syph
Paperback, 336 pages
Published December 5th 1992 by Free Press (first published 1981)
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3.98  · 
Rating details
 ·  610 ratings  ·  48 reviews

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Exhaustively researched and elegantly written, Bad Blood: The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment is both a wonderfully detailed history of the infamous Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment and an incisive analysis of the effects of institutionalized discrimination on marginalized segments of a population. From the ingrained racism that led many early 20th century doctors to believe that blacks and whites respond differently to various diseases (despite a complete lack of supporting evidence) to the blind fait ...more
Sep 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: academic-me
A must read for all aspiring biomedical and behavioral researchers. I couldn't write my dissertation without it.
Sep 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
Proof that at least one historian did something useful once, rather than writing about things like Western movies. This was an informative, rage inducing case study of racist medical experimentation in America, whose research also went to support the class action legal action brought about by the victims and their descendants.
Jul 07, 2010 rated it really liked it
Educational but not overly academic. It definitely helps you understand how this could have happened, how people could justify participation and how to never let this kind of outrageousness ever happen again. Much more nuanced than expected.
Nancy Oakes
What a terrible story!! I don't mean terrible in the sense that the book was bad but in the sense that I can't believe this actually happened. For 40 years black men with syphilis in Alabama were a part of an experiment in which they were seen by doctors but not treated for their disease, even after penicillin became widely available as a treatment for syphilis. The worst part of the entire thing: no one ever told these men that they had the disease; they thought they were being monitored becau ...more
Nov 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
Used this book for the graduate level community health course. Excellent for discussion. By looking at this book as a case study for learning from mistakes, it gives great examples of how community health initiatives could/should be done to improve trust (and in the end health) between providers/researchers and the community.
Dec 07, 2015 rated it liked it
This is a very interesting read, it can be a little difficult and dry at times but it was not what I was expecting. This was a documented and publicized experiment that continued for 40 years. An eye opening read on the treatment and protection of people participating in medical science experiments.
Apr 05, 2018 rated it liked it
As a white person, I didn’t know this story. The study started innocently enough in the 1930’s when medical ethics were just assumed and not really considered. But they missed several opportunities stop the study and consider the racist theme of only monitoring and not treating the deadly disease of syphilis. It was hard to read about blatant racism and lying to program “participants” over decades of time.
Mar 15, 2018 rated it liked it
Read for 2018 Reading Challenge: Read a book from every year since the year you were born:
1981 Non-fiction

Found this to be less powerful because I did not read it when if first came out. The writing was not particularly engaging and felt dry. I wish the book would have focused more on Peter Buxton and his role in ending the experiment.
Charles Collyer
Sep 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Scholarly and readable history of the Tuskegee Syphilis study. Takes a close look at the mentality of those who conducted the study and of those who remained oblivious for years to the violations of human rights that it entailed.
Jul 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Devastating history, well-researched and written, essential reading.
Feb 02, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although a bit slow-moving at times, this is a very important book with a lot of humanity for all the difficulty of its subject matter. It makes it more comprehensible, without ever justifying, how it could happen that human beings were willingly kept untreated, and able to spread, a horrible disease. Some of those conditions are human pride of course, and a tendency to continue down a path once it has started, but it is also clear that it is poverty and a lack of education that makes these kind ...more
Jan 12, 2016 rated it liked it
I normally don't add books that I have to read for school but after a chapter of the book, I knew I was going to have a lot of feelings about this whole thing. While it isn't something I would have picked for myself to read, I think it was an important book for me to read because its on a subject that I would normally ignore. The book was extremely well-written and opened my eyes to suffering and experimentation I didn't even know existed in the United States. This is about an experiment that la ...more
Apr 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
This book surprised me. I didn't know as much as I thought about the experiment, a victim of modern misconceptions. I didn't realized that it had started out as a humanitarian relief program that transformed under changed leadership and lack of funding. The callous reactions of modern doctors involved in the program surprised me too. As late as the 1970s, despite the blatant deception, rationalized science and obvious uselessness of the experiment, they still didn't believe that they did anythin ...more
Jan 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is a compelling history of a terrible blight on science and the country. I had heard the broad outlines of this experiment before, but Jones lays out the development of it in a way that makes you see how each horrifying step seemed reasonable and almost inevitable to the people responsible. It's disturbing to see how people of sharp minds and good intentions could, for such a long time, conduct a study that was so flawed, both morally and scientifically. The last chapter on AIDS was added f ...more
Mark Oconnor
Dec 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biology, history
Insightful and appalling, this thorough history of the notorious Tuskegee Study in rural Alabama gives a comprehensive view of the background, origins, implementation, discovery and fall out of one of the darkest chapters in the countries public health history. Through a combination of cultural, bureaucratic and dogmatic precepts the study begins and moves along, gaining momentum from 1932 until 1972 when a dogged critic breaks the story to the Associated Press. The final chapter addresses the A ...more
Dec 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
Really fascinating and horrifying. Jones does a good job of making some logical sense of the fact that this "study" could continue for nearly 40 years without anyone ever questioning what was going on and why. He gives short shrift to discussion of the effects on the subjects' wives and children--I think that deserved more discussion as part of the criminal neglect of the whole project.

Somehow it was even more horrifying and sad to read about the black medical professionals who saw nothing wron
Dec 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 23, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: public health
Jones' book is an excellent overview of the Tuskegee study's "protocol," the personalities involved, and a little of the scandal and aftermath. The book includes a lot of quotes from primary sources and individuals directly involved in the study-- which is great.

"Bad Blood" was initially published about 10 years after the AP brought the study to light, so it is a little light on discussing the ramifications of the study. The introduction and conclusion touched on this, but I would love to see a
Catherine Cook
Nov 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
Very informative. I especially found the final chapter interesting where conclusions were drawn on how the Tuskegee Experiment effected the AIDS crisis. Even more fascinating were the theories regarding how the AIDS virus came about and started to spread. There's a specific theory that encourage everyone to research for themselves because it truly is plausible. I'll let you figure out which one it is.
Jan 03, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very important record of a horrible medical experiment that shockingly lasted into the 1970s. The sections of the book that detail the experiment (chapters 8-13) are extremely interesting and an important read for anyone interested in research ethics.

Unfortunately, there is far too much background to set up the story. Obviously some historical context is needed, but it takes up the entire first half of the book.
May 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
Must Read for everyone! This book is an important reminder of what Americans have done in the name of Science. It is so easy to think that these kinds of things could only happen in Hitler's Germany. But the fact is they happened here, and we are talking about our history. The Tuskegee Experiment lasted into the 1970's!
Ty G
Aug 05, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: great-reads
Don't know if this book was written deliberately to confuse people to who the real perpetrators in this experiment was. And confusing the point of the experiments in all. which was to enhance white genetic survival. The record shows this is always the purpose of European misconduct toward non-Europeans human beings
Jul 23, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: rejected-unread
This book was boring when Dr. Jones assigned it in his history class years ago at UH, and (I am grieved to report) it is precisely as boring as I remember it to be. How anyone could made such an inherently dramatic subject such a chore to read about is anyone's guess, but I just couldn't make myself continue past page 2. Too bad. I know it's a worthy subject.
I'm pretty excited about this - this book is required reading for my Pharmacy law and ethics course, so I think it's going to be an eye opener...and it'll be nice to get away from so many of the scientific journals I have to read all the time!

I'm never going to finish this book, so I'm just going to be honest with myself right now, and take it off my "currently-reading" shelf.
Sep 22, 2014 rated it it was ok
This was fascinating and well researched. It explained how the experiment came to be and how bureaucracy can keep a so-so idea running until long after it becomes a very bad idea. It also cleared up some misconceptions I had about the study. I had a hard time getting into it though and reading it for more than a little bit at a time. Once I finally got up and running with it the story was over.
I chose this to write a book review about something concerning medical ethics... We'll see!

In the end, I never finished the book before returning it, but it brought up some serious issues. For instance - race, health distributions, lots of medical ethics, AND I got to learn how syphilis works. Yes, I am a nerd, and it was fascinating.
The Badger
Sep 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
If this book didn't make you furious, then you need to re-read it. Apparently the Hippocratic Oath to "Do no harm" didn't apply to African-Americans at the time. The experiments were conducted between 1939 and 1972--less than 77-44 years ago. Wives and children even contracted syphilis (which as we know, is fatal). THIS is why Black Lives Matter...
Feb 24, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I couldn't believe it when I read it. It really shows you that the government is not immune from wrong doing (duh!) and what they are capable of doing to their own citizens in the name of science. Highly recommend it.
Nov 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is an eye-opening account of flagrant Human Rights violations in the name of science during an embarassing period in American history. If you, for one second, believe "Our Government" is a benevolent and just body this book will change your mind. Read this book. Sadly, it is NON-FICTION.
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