Judge Dismisses $1 Billion Lawsuit Against Hopkins — For Now

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Last year, Johns Hopkins was slapped with a $1 billion lawsuit stemming from an unethical experiment the university was involved in in the 1940s. This week, that suit was dismissed — though it may soon be refiled.

The lawsuit centers on a government research project, during which hundreds of Guatemalans– including prisoners, psychiatric patients, orphans, and children at state run schools– were intentionally infected with syphilis and gonorrhea. The goal? To get some more information about how to treat STDs in American troops.

The tie to Hopkins was not as direct as it was in another famous instance of medical ethics gone wrong, the case of Henrietta Lacks. However, even though this was government research, the ties to the university were still strong:  the 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.

842 victims and their family members filed suit against the university last year. This week, a judge dismissed the case, saying the suit didn’t include enough specific details about the damages. But he also said that the plaintiffs could amend their suit and file again next month–something that, according to the Sun, they plan to do.

The university has called the lawsuit “an attempt by plaintiffs’ counsel to exploit a historic tragedy for monetary gain.”



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