El tiburón y la sanidad pública: Guatemala-U.S. Relations and Experiments on Human Subjects Open Access

Coady, Emily (2017)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/p5547s21t?locale=en


Between 1946 and 1948, the Pan-American Sanitary Bureau, in collaboration with the United States Public Health Service and the Guatemalan office of Sanidad Pública (Public Sanitation) ran a series of experiments in Guatemala City to test penicillin's efficacy in treating syphilis and other sexually transmitted diseases. In the post-World War II period, in the U.S. and abroad, there was heightened interest in finding ways to prevent and treat the spread of what were then known as venereal diseases. Unlike other studies run contemporaneously, the experiments in Guatemala involved purposefully infecting non-consenting prisoners, psychiatric patients, and soldiers with sexually transmitted diseases. This thesis explores the historical antecedents to these experiments and the varying Guatemalan and U.S. motives for participating in the project. It is one of many examples of U.S. neocolonialism and exploitation of regional power dynamics, but it is also a story specific to Guatemala's unique social structure and the historical period in which the experiments took place. This thesis analyzes the utilitarian approach to medicine taken by both United States and Guatemalan public health officials in the context of the intensified interest in modernity in the mid-twentieth century. The experiments served the political interests of both the U.S. and Guatemalan governments, at the expense of the people coerced and deceived into participating as experimental subjects.

Table of Contents

Introduction: 1
Chapter One, Diseased Diplomacy: 8

Chapter Two, Protegiendo nuestra raza: 36

Conclusion, "They Were Not Dogs!": 53

Bibliography: 62

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