Remember Tuskegee: Public health student knowledge of the ethical significance of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study

S. S. Coughlin, C. Metayer, G. D. Etheredge, Jr Martin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

18 Scopus citations

Abstract

The ethical problems that surrounded the Tuskegee Syphilis Study prompted widespread public criticism when they first surfaced in 1972; the Tuskegee Study remains an important case in bioethics. We recently examined public health student knowledge of the ethical significance of the Tuskegee Study as part of an ethics curriculum needs assessment at Tulane University. A brief questionnaire was administered to 236 graduate students currently enrolled in seven epidemiology courses. Basic demographic information was obtained along with information about degree program. A series of questions was then asked to assess student knowledge of bioethics including the ethical significance of the Tuskegee Study. Only 19% (46 of 236) of the students demonstrated knowledge of the ethical significance of the Tuskegee Study. Knowledge of the Tuskegee Study's ethical significance was higher among students who were from the United States and those who were enrolled in the epidemiology program (P < .05). The ethical problems that surrounded the Tuskegee Study have rarely been encountered in public health. However, this important case stands as an exemplar of the potential for ethical abuses in human subjects research. Such cases ought to be highlighted in public health curricula. Medical Subject Headings (MeSH): blacks, African Americans, educational curriculum, epidemiology, ethics, public health, racism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)242-246
Number of pages5
JournalAmerican Journal of Preventive Medicine
Volume12
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - 1996
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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