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HHS To Spend Nearly $1.8M To Review Research Volunteer Rules, Fight STDs In Guatemala; DOJ Asks Related Lawsuit To Be Dismissed

“Responding to U.S. experiments that infected Guatemalans with syphilis and gonorrhea in the 1940s, the Obama administration announced Tuesday that it will spend $1 million to study new rules for protecting medical research volunteers,” and “[a]n additional $775,000 will go to fighting sexually transmitted diseases in Guatemala,” the Washington Post reports (Vastag, 1/10). “President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius all have apologized for the research, hidden for decades until a Wellesley College medical historian uncovered the records in 2009,” the Associated Press/Boston Globe notes (Pickler, 1/10).

According to the Washington Times, “An announcement such as this might have gone unnoticed, but federal lawyers filed legal papers the day before asking for the dismissal of a lawsuit” filed against the U.S. on behalf of the experiment’s subjects, who are seeking compensation (Wetzstein, 1/10). The Department of Justice (DOJ) “late Monday said sovereign immunity protects federal health officials from litigation stemming from the study,” the AP writes (1/10). “The DOJ called the experiments unethical and said they had caused ‘a terrible wrong,'” but the motion stated the “lawsuit is not the proper vehicle — and this Court is not the proper forum — through which the consequences of this shameful conduct may be resolved,” Nature News Blog reports. “Rudy Zuniga, a Guatemalan attorney representing the alleged victims, said that the U.S. request to dismiss the case today was expected, and that his team will continue to press for payment,” the blog notes (Walter, 1/10).

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.