Health

U.S. sued over syphilis tests in Guatemala

Guatemalans who were infected with syphilis in a U.S. experiment are suing health officials for compensation.
In this 1997 photo, U.S. President Bill Clinton, left, and Vice President Al Gore, centre, reach out to Herman Shaw, 94, a Tuskegee Syphilis Study victim whose infection went untreated by government doctors. Guatemalans who were infected with syphilis in the 1940s are seeking compensation from the U.S. government. (Doug Mills/Associated Press)

Guatemalans who were infected with syphilis in a U.S. experiment are suing health officials for compensation.

American scientists deliberately infected about 700 Guatemalans in the 1940s as part of a study testing penicillin for sexually transmitted diseases.

Lawyers representing the victims asked U.S. President Barack Obama's administration to come up with an out-of-court settlement similar to those established for the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and the attacks of September 11, 2001.

Attorneys said they didn't receive a response by their Friday deadline and so filed the suit on Monday on behalf of victims or their legal heirs.

In October 2010, the U.S. government apologized to "all the individuals who were affected by such abhorrent research practices."

Those affected included Guatemalan prisoners, people with mental illness, soldiers and orphans who were never told they were infected with syphilis or treated for it.

With files from The Associated Press