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J Natl Med Assoc. 2005 April; 97(4): 564–581.
PMCID: PMC2568733

Misrepresentations of the Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis.


The Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis (TSUS) is the subject of medical research, healthcare, ethics, race relations and fictitious media portrayals (e.g., movie, play). Unraveling misrepresentations about the TSUS is important because prevailing views continue to contribute to alleged mistrust of the medical system by the black community and compromised doctor-patient and researcher-participant relationships. A comparative analysis of standard TSUS information was conducted and included evidenced-based alternative information in an effort to: (a) contextualize the TSUS with accurate medical, public health and historical information and (b) balance claims of racism, nontreatment and denial of treatment. An article in the Winter 2003 Radcliffe Quarterly misrepresented the images of two historical African-American health institutions, the John A. Andrew Memorial Hospital and the Tuskegee Veterans Administration Hospital. A critical analysis challenges these pictorial misrepresentations and documents, in part, a continuing and prevailing pattern of biased misrepresentations in discussions about the TSUS. The National Medical Association (NMA) and the Journal of the National Medical Association have a history of advocacy for African-American health, a record of combating racial discrimination and a quest for truth about the status of the black community. As past NMA historical notables have performed through their advancement, service and leadership, health professionals now have the opportunity, obligation and information to educate the American community about the TSUS with evidenced-based information.

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Selected References

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