Parker Waichman LLP Opposes U.S. Justice Department Effort to Quash Lawsuit over Guatemalan Medical Experiments Conducted by U.S. Government Researchers in the 1940s

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Parker Waichman LLP Pledges to Continue its Fight on Behalf of Guatemalans who were Allegedly Infected with Syphilis and Other Sexually Transmitted Diseases In the Course of Non-Consensual Medical Experiments Conducted by U.S. Government Researchers in the 1940s.

Parker Waichman LLP, a national law firm, opposes motions recently filed by the U.S. Department of Justice to dismiss a proposed individual and class action lawsuit seeking reparations for victims of non-consensual medical experiments conducted by researchers for the U.S. Public Health Service in Guatemala in the 1940s. Last March, Parker Waichman LLP and a partner firm filed a class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and eight current federal officials, including HHS Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, and Thomas Frieden, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), on behalf of the Guatemalan medical experimentation victims (case number 1:11-cv-00527). As the government admits, the lawsuit “arises out of a deeply troubling chapter in our nation’s history.” In addition to compensatory and punitive damages for victims of the Guatemalan experiments and their descendants, the lawsuit seeks a declaration that the Defendants violated human rights and an injunction to prohibit further abuses against Guatemalan residents.

According to the federal complaint, between 1946 and 1948, U.S. government medical researchers working in Guatemala intentionally infected upwards of 1,300 prisoners, soldiers and psychiatric patients with syphilis and other sexually transmitted disease without their knowledge or permission in order to investigate the efficacy of penicillin in treating the diseases. The lawsuit cites two causes of action arising under the Alien Tort Statute for violations of the international prohibitions against medical experimentation on non-consenting human subjects and against cruel, inhuman degrading treatment; and two causes arising under the U.S. Constitution, for the violation of the victims' right to due process and for subjecting them to cruel and unusual punishment.

The doctor who led the Guatemalan experiments was John C. Cutler, who also helped coordinate the infamous Tuskegee, Alabama, study where 600 black men with syphilis were left untreated for decades starting in 1932 to follow the course of the treatable disease. The lawsuit alleges the decision to conduct research in Guatemala was part of a deliberate plan to continue the Tuskegee testing offshore, where it would not be subject to the same level of oversight as in the United States.

According to a report from, President Barack Obama has formally apologized to the victims and called the Guatemala experiments reprehensible and tragic. The President also directed the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues to investigate the experiments. Last September, the Panel released a report which deemed the experiments “unconscionable” and called on the U.S. government to create a system to compensate people who are harmed by participation in scientific research.

On Monday, January 9, the U.S. Justice Department filed two motions seeking the dismissal of the lawsuit, asserting, among other arguments, that the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) provides immunity to the U.S. government for all claims based on injuries suffered in foreign countries and that the law provides no remedy for the injured Guatemalan plaintiffs. In fact, says the government, Congress has a general interest in protecting doctors like those who experimented on these Guatemalan citizens without their knowledge.

“We vigorously oppose the assertions made by the Justice Department in its motions, and we pledge to continue to fight for the rights of Guatemalan’s harmed by the reprehensible acts committed by U.S. researchers during the 1940s,” states Peter Cambs, Senior Litigation Counsel at Parker Waichman LLP. “We will also continue to call on the U.S. government to establish a claims process by which the citizens of Guatemala who were harmed may receive restitution.”

Parker Waichman LLP continues to offer free legal consultations to Guatemalan victims of this non-consensual medical experimentation. If you or a member of your family was adversely impacted by these gross violations of human rights, please contact our office by visiting Free case evaluations are also available by calling 1 800 LAW INFO (1-800-529-4636).

For more information regarding the Guatemalan medical experimentation lawsuit and Parker Waichman LLP, please visit: or call 1-800-LAW-INFO (1-800-529-4636).

Contact:             Parker Waichman LLP
                             Herb Waichman
                             (800) LAW-INFO
                             (800) 529-4636


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