National Center for Bioethics in Research and Health Care

Syphilis Study Legacy Committee

syphilis study doctors and nurse standing near trunk of car with participantsIn February of 1994 at the Claude Moore Health Sciences Library in Charlottesville, VA, a symposium was held entitled "Doing Bad in the Name of Good?: The Tuskegee Syphilis Study and Its Legacy." Resulting from this gathering was the creation of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study Legacy Committee which met for the first time on January 18-19, 1996.  

The committee had two goals; (1) to persuade President Clinton to apologize on behalf of the government for the atrocities of the study and (2) to develop a strategy to address the damages of the study to the psyche of African-Americans and others about the ethical behavior of government-led research; rebuilding the reputation of Tuskegee through public education about the study, developing a clearinghouse on the ethics of scientific research and scholarship and assembling training programs for health care providers. 

After intensive discussions, the Committee's final report in May of 1996 urged President Clinton to apologize for the emotional, medical, research and psychological damage of the study. On May 16th at a White House ceremony attended by the men, members of the Legacy Committee and others representing the medical and research communities, the apology was delivered to the surviving participants of the study and families of the deceased.

Committee Members Include:

  • Ms. Myrtle Adams 
    Chairman, Macon County Health Care Authority 
  • Ms. Patricia Clay 
    Administrator, Macon County Health Care Authority 
  • Dr. James A. Ferguson (now deceased)  
    Dean, School of Veterinary Medicine 
    Tuskegee University 
  • Dr. John C. Fletcher, co-chair 
    Director, Center for Biomedical Ethics 
    Cornfield Professor of Religious Studies 
    University of Virginia 
  • Dr. Vanessa Northington Gamble, chair 
    former Associate Professor of History of Medicine and Family Medicine 
    University of Wisconsin Medical School 
    (former Director of the Tuskegee University National Center for Bioethics in Research and Health Care)
  • Dr. Lee Green 
    Assistant Professor 
    University of Alabama 
  • Ms. Barbara Harrell 
    Director, Division of Minority Health 
    Alabama Department of Public Health 
  • Dr. Bill Jenkins 
    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 
  • Dr. James H. Jones 
    Professor of History 
    University of Houston 
  • Dr. Ralph Katz 
    Department of Behavioral Sciences and Community Health 
    School of Dental Medicine 
    University of Connecticut Health Center 
  • Ms. Joan Echtenkamp Klein 
    Assistant Director for Historical Collections and Services 
    Health Sciences Library 
    University of Virginia Health System 
  • Dr. Susan Reverby 
    Luella LaMer Professor for Women's Studies 
    Wellesley College 
  • Dr. Rueben Warren 
    Associate Director for Minority Health 
    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
    (now Director of the Tuskegee University National Center for Bioethics in Research and Health Care)
  • Mr. Anthony Winn 
    Program Analyst 
    Minority Health Professions Foundation 

   close-up of shot being given to participant

nurse talking to participant in field

doctor gives shot to participant