Bill Jenkins, Who Tried to Halt Tuskegee Syphilis Study, Dies at 73

Bill Jenkins, a government epidemiologist who tried to expose the unethical Tuskegee syphilis study in the 1960s and devoted the rest of his career to fighting racism in health care, died on Feb. 17 in Charleston, S.C. He was 73.

His wife, Dr. Diane Rowley, said the cause was complications of sarcoidosis, an inflammatory disease.

Dr. Jenkins was working as a statistician at the United States Public Health Service in Washington in the 1960s when he first learned of the infamous Tuskegee study. In that study, the federal government deceived hundreds of black men in Macon County, Ala., where Tuskegee is the county seat, into thinking that their so-called “bad blood” — they weren’t told that they had syphilis — was being treated when it wasn’t.

The researchers had wanted to see what unchecked syphilis would do to the human body and used these men as guinea pigs, without their informed consent.

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