Judge Okays ‘Guatemala Experiment’ Lawsuit Against Johns Hopkins, Bristol-Myers Squibb

A $1 billion lawsuit filed against Johns Hopkins, Bristol-Myers Squibb and the Rockefeller Foundation got the okay from a Federal Judge in Baltimore Wednesday. The lawsuit alleges all three defendants took part in the “Guatemala Experiment,” where hundreds of Guatemalans were infected with sexually transmitted diseases.

While the lawsuit was dismissed in 2016, the attorneys representing 842 victims and their families were provided with instructions to refile. Motion to dismiss the refilled lawsuit was dismissed, while claims from victims and their family were allowed to stand.

Guatemala Experiment
Image: The Guardian

A historian discovered evidence of the highly secretive 1940s experiment in 2010. The purpose of the experiment was to infect humans with chancroid, gonorrhea and syphilis, in an effort to find new treatment.

The suit alleges five senior Johns Hopkins physicians were part of a group that reviewed and approved federal spending for the experiments.

Hopkins continues to “maintain that the plaintiffs’ claims are not supported by the facts or the law.”

“We feel profound sympathy for the individuals and families impacted and reiterate that this 1940’s study in Guatemala was funded and conducted by the U.S. Government, not by Johns Hopkins,” Kim Hoppe, a Johns Hopkins spokeswoman, said in a statement. “We will continue to vigorously defend the lawsuit.”

The Rockefeller Foundation helped develop a Hopkins research center and clinic, “Department L”, that focused primarily on syphilis. The Rockefeller Foundation has denied any involvement in the study.

The lawsuit alleges that several employees, board members and U.S. surgeon general participated in the experiments.

September 15 will mark the first planning meeting in the case. At this time, the lawyers are expected to move to the discovery process.

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