October 3rd, 2010
09:00 AM ET

Letters to the President: #622 'Sorry seems to be…'

Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Reporter's Note: President Obama called the president of Guatemala this past week to say we’re sorry. Maybe I should send him a letter, too…

Dear Mr. President,

There are things that I really can’t fathom, and this whole business of our government willingly infecting people in Guatemala with sexually transmitted diseases in the 1940s is one of them. When I saw the headlines about us apologizing for that, I thought “Oh yes, that should do the trick. Sure, we gave your people syphilis. Our bad!”

Related: US apologizes for infecting Guatemalans with STDs in the 1940s

The fact that it was for research into how well penicillin would work doesn’t make it any better in my book. Seriously, we couldn’t find enough people already infected? I can’t help but feel like we weren’t looking very hard.

I’m usually very hesitant to judge the people of the past too harshly, because I know the world they inhabited was different than ours today. With all the medicines we now have, it’s a little too easy to forget that simple infections were death sentences for many folks. But this seems more like one of those cases where we just took the easy and morally reprehensible way out.