Over the years, Johns Hopkins has established itself as a leading research institute. It’s also been implicated in a number of research-related scandals. Yesterday, former research subjects of one such unethical study filed a lawsuit against the university, seeking $1 billion in damages. The lawsuit stems from experiments in Guatemala in the 1940s, in which government researchers infected hundreds of people with syphilis and gonorrhea in order to study how to treat STDs in American troops. Research subjects included prisoners, psychiatric patients, orphans, and children at state run schools. Dr. Joseph Moore, director of Johns Hopkins’ Venereal Disease Division, led the committee that approved the research; three other people affiliated with Hopkins also served on the committee. According to the lawsuit, at least one Hopkins researcher had on-going input during the course of the experiments.
In 2012, the victims attempted to sue the government for damages, but a judge threw out their suit on a technicality. President Obama apologized for the unethical studies back in 2010, but no financial restitution has ever been made.
“Johns Hopkins welcomes bioethical inquiry into the U.S. government’s Guatemala study and its legacy,” the university said in a statement. “This lawsuit, however, is an attempt by plaintiffs’ counsel to exploit a historic tragedy for monetary gain.”