Orellana to the infirmary

Update: I got this partly wrong, because the Guardian article is at least misleading.

Oh.my.god. I didn’t know about this.

Marta Orellana says she was playing with friends at the orphanage when the summons sounded: “Orellana to the infirmary. Orellana to the infirmary.”

Waiting for her were several doctors she had never seen before. Tall men with fair complexions who spoke what she guessed was English, plus a Guatemalan doctor. They had syringes and little bottles.

They ordered her to lie down and open her legs. Embarrassed, she locked her knees together and shook her head. The Guatemalan medic slapped her cheek and she began to cry. “I did what I was told,” she recalls.

And they infected her with syphilis.

It was 1946 and orphans in Guatemala City, along with prisoners, military conscripts and prostitutes, had been selected for a medical experiment which would torment many, and remain secret, for more than six decades.

The US, worried about GIs returning home with sexual diseases, infected an estimated 1,500 Guatemalans with syphilis, gonorrhea and chancroid to test an early antibiotic, penicillin.


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