Clinton meets Tuskegee victims

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President Clinton yesterday made a formal apology on behalf of successive US administrations for what is seen as one of the most shameful episodes in 20th century American history: the use of impoverished black syphilis victims for a 40- year medical experiment.

Five of the eight survivors, aged between 90 and 100, travelled to Washington from Tuske-gee, Alabama, where the ex- periment was conducted, to attend the White House ceremony. People in Tuskegee were able to watch a special satellite relay.

The research project began in 1932 and involved 400 black men whose syphilis was deliberately left untreated, even though penicillin became available as the study progressed. It was not halted until 1972, following an expose by the Associated Press news agency.

The men were not told they had syphilis and knew their disease as "bad blood". The study was intended to track the passage of syphilis and its effects on the body. The men, all poor, had signed up for a federally funded medical care programme.

AP established that 28 had died of syphilis, another 100 from syphilis- related complications and at least 40 wives and 19 children had been infected.

Now, more than 25 years after the experiment ended, the Tuskegee Syphilis Study is identified as an episode that has strained race relations in the US and fostered black cynicism of white authority, including whites in the medical profession.

Yesterday's ceremony at the White House fulfilled a promise made by Mr Clinton two months ago that he would apologise in person to the victims. They and their families have received financial compensation, but never an apology.

Mr Clinton used the occasion to announce that the government was giving $200m (pounds 125m) to help fund a bioethics research centre at Tuskegee University.