Johns Hopkins, Bristol-Myers Face $1 Billion Suit

A federal judge in Maryland said Johns Hopkins University, pharmaceutical company Bristol-Myers Squibb and the Rockefeller Foundation must face a $1 billion lawsuit over their roles in a top-secret program in the 1940s ran by the US government that injected hundreds of Guatemalans with syphilis, reported Reuters.

Several doctors from Hopkins and the Rockefeller Foundation were involved in the government program, as well as four executives from Bristol-Myers' predecessors, Bristol Laboratories and the Squibb Institute, according to the complaint.

"The overall purpose of the study was to test out whether antibiotics could be used to prevent syphilis and other sexually transmitted infections before its symptoms appeared in someone who was exposed to them. So the researchers initially recruited sex workers with syphilis to have sex with prisoners.

Later on, they directly infected volunteers without their informed consent or knowledge of what was really happening.

In many cases, though, infected people were left untreated. In total, 83 deaths were linked to the study, though it’s not entirely certain whether the infections were the direct cause (That said, late-stage syphilis is often fatal)," reported Gizmodo.

In a January 3 decision, US District Judge Theodore Chuang denied the defendants’ argument that a recent Supreme Court decision shielding foreign businesses from lawsuits in US courts over human rights abuses abroad also applied to domestic firms absent Congressional authorization.

Chuang’s decision was a big victory for 444 victims (all mostly dead) and their relatives suing over the experiment.

The experiment was concealed until a professor at Wellesley College in Massachusetts discovered the files in 2010.

Chuang said lawsuits against US businesses under the federal Alien Tort Statute were not “categorically foreclosed” by the Supreme Court decision last April 24 in Jesner v Arab Bank Plc covering foreign corporations.

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