Tuskegee Syphilis Study Descendants Seek Settlement Money

In this Tuesday, April 4, 2017 photo, an unidentified man walks past the Tuskegee Human and Civil Rights Multicultural Center in Tuskegee, Ala. The Trump administration is opposing a bid to use unclaimed money from a legal settlement to fund the museum, which includes exhibits honoring victims of the government’s infamous Tuskegee syphilis study. (AP Photo/Jay Reeves, File)

(CN) – A nonprofit organization representing the descendants of hundreds of black men who were victimized during a now-infamous government syphilis study has asked a federal judge to award the group any remaining funds from a 1974 settlement.

According to a spokesperson with the Voices for Our Fathers Legacy Foundation, the group has sent a letter to U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson of the Middle District of Alabama on behalf of the families affected by the study.

The U.S. Public Health Service Syphilis Study at Tuskegee University was a federal study into the effects of untreated syphilis in black men.

It began in rural Macon County, Ala., in 1932 and ran for forty years, until it was exposed by an Associated Press story in 1972.

According to a summary of the study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the study’s participants included hundreds of African American men who were infected with syphilis, as well as hundreds more that were used as a control group.

The participants in the study that had syphilis were left untreated for decades, despite the fact that penicillin became the recommended treatment for the disease in the 1940s.

According to the CDC, there are no longer any surviving participants from the study. The last known participant, Ernest Hendon, died in 2004 at the age of 97.

In 1997, then-President Bill Clinton offered an apology to those affected by the study on behalf of the U.S. government, calling the program “an outrage to our commitment to integrity and equality for all our citizens.”

According to the CDC, an out-of-court settlement was reached in 1974 for $10 million.

The Voices of Our Fathers Legacy Foundation was organized in 2014 as an offshoot of Tuskegee University’s National Center for Bioethics in Research and Health Care.

According to a statement from the group , its mission is to ”uplift the legacy of the USPHS Study In Macon County by honoring the men in the study and convening their families as a means to preserve history and  enrich education in clinical and public health research.”

In a statement on the Center website, the organization calls the Tuskegee syphilis study “the longest and the most immoral health and medical treatment study ever conducted in the history of the United States.”

A local museum, the Tuskegee Human and Civil Rights Multicultural Center, has also requested to use any unclaimed funds for the operation of its center.  The museum includes a display and memorial dedicated to the Tuskegee syphilis study.

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