Wednesday, March 09, 2011

How Do You Possibly Defend this Lawsuit?

Let's say that you had a new antibiotic.   And let's say that you wanted to find out if it was effective against syphilis and gonorrhea.   And let's say that you figured the best way to test it would be to infect another country's prisoners and mentally ill with those diseases without their consent or knowledge.

And then, many decades later, all this comes out and you have to apologize for what even you call these "reprehensible" experiments.

These events happened in Guatemala from 1946 to 1949.   Now lawyers for those survivors and the victims' families have given US attorney general until Friday to indicate if Washington is willing to settle this out of court.  If not, they sue.

What can America possibly do except settle?   They might be able to come up with procedural or jurisdictional defences but the political costs, domestically and internationally, would be gargantuan.   The report that broke the decades of silence, written by Susan Reverby, is riveting.

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