Copyright 1995 ABC-CLIO. This review was taken from the ABC-CLIO Video Rating Guide for Libraries on CD-ROM, a 5-year compilation of over 8900 video titles and reviews, 1990-1994. For information regarding order VRGL CD-ROM, contact: ABC-CLIO, P.O. Box 1911, Santa Barbara, CA 93116-1911; 805-968-1911

This following text has been included in the UCB Media Resources Center Web site with the kind permission of the publishers.

Deadly Deception

  • Series: NOVA
  • Rating: ****
  • Audience: College to Adult
  • Price: Public performance: $149.00
  • Date: Copyright 1993. Released 1993.
  • Descriptors: Blacks - History. Syphilis. Venereal diseases. Diseases. Racism.
  • Production Information: Live action. Color. Also available in 3/4 inch. Closed captioned. 56 min.
  • Production Company: WGBH (Boston)
  • Available from: Films for the Humanities and Sciences PO Box 2053 Princeton, NJ 08543 (800)257-5126
  • Cataloging: 616.951'3 Tuskegee Syphilis Study|| Syphilis - Research - Alabama||Documentary films
  • Print Entry #: 5:139
  • Reviewer: Anitra Gordon

    Four hundred African-American men, told they were being treated for syphilis, were actually part of the notorious Tuskegee study that provided worthless medicine and denied them treatment. This well-documented, dramatic program is an indictment of the Public Health Service, which allowed the study to continue for 40 years, even after penicillin became available and it became clear that syphilis was the same disease in blacks and whites.

    The program effectively blends scenes from a current play based on the study, interviews with survivors, documentary sequences from the 1920s on, one of the original government doctors - who still defends the project - and various health care professionals. Before penicillin, syphilis was a deadly epidemic. The government started to treat citizens, including African Americans in Macon County, Alabama, but ran out of funds. They then decided to study the effects of untreated syphilis while telling their subjects they were being treated. "Treatment" involved blood tests and painful spinal taps to provide information and worthless medicine.

    Results were published in medical journals without any outcry that such a program was continuing to deceive these men and actually preventing them from getting treatment even when funds became available. Dozens of lives were lost, and many others suffered greatly before a 1972 news story, following years of pressure on the government, stopped the experiment. Many of those interviewed insist that such an experiment would not have been allowed if the subjects were not black, and they point out that such racial programs have contributed to today's mistrust of white medical professionals and programs.

    A wide-ranging audience can appreciate this video dealing with medical ethics blinded by racist policies.

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