Mengele en Amérique

LONDRES – Nous sommes en 1946. D’un côté de l’Atlantique, des hommes de loi américains poursuivent des médecins nazis à Nuremberg pour crimes contre l’humanité – officiellement des « recherches » sont menées s’agissant des prisonniers des camps de concentration. De l’autre côté de l’Atlantique, au Guatemala, le Service de santé publique des États-Unis inocule délibérément le virus de la syphilis à des prisonniers et autres malades mentaux dans le cadre d’une autre « expérience », destinée à remplacer les médicaments inefficaces utilisés par les soldats durant la guerre qui venait de toucher à sa fin.

Cela pourrait sembler trop pervers pour être vrai. Pourtant, une commission spéciale nommée par le président Barack Obama vient de confirmer que les expériences guatémaltèques ont réellement eu lieu. Obama a également présenté des excuses au peuple du Guatemala. Mais pourquoi a-t-il fallu attendre aussi longtemps ?

Soixante-trois ans après la conduite des expériences au Guatemala, une historienne américaine, Susan Reverby, a décidé de fouiner dans les archives médicales des années 1940. Il s’agissait pour Reverby d’achever la dernière étape de deux décennies d’études portant sur les expériences abominables menées à Tuskegee par le Service de santé publique des États-Unis, dans le cadre desquelles des centaines d’hommes afro-américains souffrant de syphilis a un stade avancé avaient été placés en observation sans bénéficier d’aucun traitement, même après l’apparition de la pénicilline. Elle a examiné les dossiers de Thomas Parran, directeur du Service de santé publique des États-Unis de 1936 à 1948, époque de plein essor des expériences de Tuskegee et également, a-t-elle découvert, des expériences guatémaltèques jusqu’à lors inconnues.

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