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Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experiments on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present

by Harriet Washington

Publishers Weekly: Starred Review. This groundbreaking study documents that the infamous Tuskegee experiments, in which black syphilitic men were studied but not treated, was simply the most publicized in a long, and continuing, history of the American medical establishment using African-Americans as unwitting or unwilling human guinea pigs. Washington, a journalist and bioethicist who has worked at Harvard Medical School and Tuskegee University, has accumulated a wealth of documentation, beginning with Thomas Jefferson exposing hundreds of slaves to an untried smallpox vaccine before using it on whites, to the 1990s, when the New York State Psychiatric Institute and Columbia University ran drug experiments on African-American and black Dominican boys to determine a genetic predisposition for "disruptive behavior." Washington is a great storyteller, and in addition to giving us an abundance of information on "scientific racism," the book, even at its most distressing, is compulsively readable. It covers a wide range of topics—the history of hospitals not charging black patients so that, after death, their bodies could be used for anatomy classes; the exhaustive research done on black prisoners throughout the 20th century—and paints a powerful and disturbing portrait of medicine, race, sex and the abuse of power. (Dec. 26)

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