January 19, 2004 by

Ernest Hendon


Categories: Medicine

Ernest Hendon, the last living survivor of the infamous Tuskegee syphilis study, died on Jan. 16. Cause of death was not released. He was 96.
From 1932 to 1972, the U.S. Public Health Service and the Tuskegee Institute offered free medical care to sharecroppers in Macon County, Ala. When the 623 disadvantaged, rural black men arrived, the doctors told them they were being treated for “bad blood.” In actuality, the men had syphilis, and were being used to study how the disease spreads and kills. Although penicillin became the standard of care in 1947, the study’s subjects were not given treatment or told about the study’s parameters.
The project finally ended after Jean Heller, an Associated Press reporter, revealed the truth. A public outcry led to the appointment of a federal Ad Hoc Advisory Panel, which concluded the Tuskegee Study was “ethically unjustified.”
In 1972, the study’s victims and their families filed a $1.8 billion class action lawsuit. The government settled the case, and promised to provide free health care to the plaintiffs. They also received $9 million in damages. President Bill Clinton officially apologized to the study’s participants in 1997.
Full Coverage From NPR

25 Responses to Ernest Hendon

  1. PaulaThompson

    Each semester I teach about the Tuskegee Experiment in my biology classes. Students continue to be shocked, saddened, and dismayed by what our government did. I will make special note this week, when we talk aboutTuskegee, to remember Mr.Hendon in every class.

  2. Kathryn Spencer

    I feel so sorry for the ones who died and their families. I send you my sympathy. My thoughts and prayers go to the families that have been affected by the injustice of the goverment and the men of Tuskegee, Ala.

  3. Michael Spencer

    The government had no business to deny them treatment when penicillin was readily available.
    For 20 years they did nothing to help the men of Tuskegee. It took another 25 years to receive a formal apology from President Clinton. The reparations for survivors was only $32,000 which is insulting and it is sad that no one even considered if at any point what they were doing was wrong. I am sorry that this could be done and the doctors responsible were not punished because they are supposed to take the Hippocratic oath to swear that they will try to their best ability to help their patients and they failed to do this. I think that all the doctors that took part in the Tuskegee should have been punished in some way so the victims could get some retribution so that they would learn that what they did was morally wrong.

  4. Pulaski, John

    Your participation in this experiment should be one of anger and of pride. Anger for the goverment and doctors non-disclosure of your actual participation and the en-human action of the doctors for not providing proper medical treatment once the experiment met it’s goals. Pride for that this experiment will have lasting inplications for future generations in how experiments are conducted and the true course of this terrrible STD.

  5. Vernon Goolsby

    I didn’t know Ernest Herndon but I heard nothing but great things about him. I think the Tuskegee Experiment should have been called the Tuskegee fool blacks experiment because the government fooled all the blacks who had syphilis. I really believe that if the blacks were treated for syphilis most of them wouldn’t died. But never the less I think Ernest Herndon was a true pioneer for all people, not just him but all the blacks who took part in the Tuskegee Experiment.

  6. Tracey M. Smith

    You were well respected and well loved. However, God loved you best and called you home for the final rest. No more will you suffer….your peace has finally come. Always remembered and never to be forgotten..your legacy will live on in our hearts…

  7. Bernie Klepac

    Ernest Hendon, like the other men in the Tuskegee Experiment, suffered needlessly for the benefit of others they would never meet. These men were wronged; all too late, their sacrifices made known to the world. May all of them rest in God’s arms, for they endured their purgatory on Earth, before their deaths. God has a special place in Heaven for saints like these men.

  8. Heather Nettles

    I am so truly sorry for everyone that was abused by our government in the Tuskegee experiment. I had no knowledge of this experiment and many, many other things until I started taking Bilogy at Fccj. Ms.Thompson has really oped my eyes to the real world and our government. I have been shocked at what I have learned, I have told my entire family and my friends about the Tuskegee experiment and many more of the things to which I have learned. They were just in disbelief as well. On behalf of me and my family I am truly sorry for what you and your family was made to go through and our sympathy is with you. I was happy to learn that he outlived the actual people that did this to him. He is in wonderful hands now, Gods! God Bless you and your entire family!

  9. Veda M. Griffin

    I learned of this terrible experiment about 20 years ago. I am sorry that I have not kept up to date on this tragic event. I too am in Ms. P. Thompson’s biology class at FCCJ in Jacksonville, Florida. I discussed this and other issues about OUR government with my family and friends. Mr. Hendon, you will be forever missed. My family and I send our deepest sympathies and prayers.

  10. Margaret Anderson

    I will continue to remind and inform the African American Youth about the inhuman act that the United States Government did to our people and how long it took them to realize this act was inhumanism (Tuskegee Experiment). In MEMORY of Ernest Hendon and all the African American MEN that suffered this act.

  11. Stefan Howard

    I am Stefan K Howard, a somgwriter from Philadelphia. I have been the target/victim of “Ultrasonic Torture” since Dec 2000. Do you have any imformation concerning protective clothing. I am just one of thousands targeted. Our men and woman are dying fighting terrorism. Unfortunately the Tuskegee experiment mentality is still with us. Americans are being Murdered. Online Keywords: Ultrasonic Torture, Microwave Weapons, Crowd Dispersal Device, and Non Lethal Weapons. (LETHAL!!)

  12. Jackie

    I learned little about the Tuskeegee Syphilis Experiment growing up in CA, but what I know now appalls me and would destroy my confidence in man kind if I was as narrow-minded as the doctors who participated in this atrocity!!! God rest his soul!!

  13. LaShawn Hall

    To all the victims of the Tuskegee Experiment i just want to say that iam truly sorry for what has happen. Iam very angry with the Government and those involved I just feel more should be done for such a cruel and unhuman act. Just to encourage you to stay stong and to all the families to support each other May God Bless You!

  14. Eleanor Peterson

    The Tuskegee Experiment is one of the more horrendous moments in our country’s history. I can not imagine how those who came up with this ‘experiment’ could possibly have a clear conscience. These men and their families deserved a life with good health, and it was brutally snatched away.

  15. Amy Paulson

    With all the flaws our counrty has had, this terrible experiment is at the top of the list. As a U.S. citizen I am embarrased to read about this tragedy. Our country owes these men and their families a life of carefree happiness, for they never had the chance to experience true, flawless happiness. For all of you who have to deal with this tragedy, God Bless You.

  16. Brandi Nelms

    My heart goes out to the people who have been affected by this incident. I’ve always wanted to think that us the U.S citizens were the good guys and this kind of thing only happened in other countries, but this has really hit home. Our government had no business denying these men proper care and medicine. These men were tricked into thinking that they were getting true medical attention, something that they had never had. The men that volunteered for this experiment should be looked at as heros for the suffering that they went through. Knowing that our government can be liers, it makes me question my trust and pride in our leaders. I am truly embrassed that the people that I look to for answers and leadership could be so heartless. I will always remember learning about this incident and will keep all the families in my heart.
    Brandi Nelms

  17. Yasmine Spatcher

    My condolences go out to all the victims and their families. This is the second time that I have heard of this incident. Both times I was shocked at what I learned of our Government. I

  18. Stephanie Carmon

    In my biology class we discussed the Tusskegee Study that was taken place from 1932 to 1972. Before this class I had no priror knowledge of this study. I just want to appologize to you for what our government has done to you. Even after the treatment was available for proper usage the Tuskegee experimentalist were still deneyed treatment. This is nonsense to me because not one of the experimenters would have wanted to suffer the effects of this drug if they did not have to. This whole experiment brings forth many other questions. What else could the government be with holding from us? Anyway I just want to send my condlences, you all may be gone but you are surely not forgotten. Hopefully you all are gone on to a place where there will be no more troubles. Grace and Peace

  19. Tarneisha Smart

    I send out my deepest sympathy to the Hendon family. I have learned about the Tuskegee Experiment in one of my classes and it hurt me deeply to see that our government would over look such a horrible thing as if it never happen. I feel there should be some sort of memorial set up or some kind of public apology to the family members of the ones lost in the Tuskegee Experiment. Eventhough that won’t bring back the lost loved ones it will atleast let the world know what these brave souls endured.
    I will keep all of these families in my prayers.

  20. Emily Simmons

    In my Biology class we discussed the Tuskegee experiment, and I never realized all the things the government has done to people in America. I don’t understand how the doctors could do this to people who trusted them and still be able to sleep at night. My apologies go out to all the survivors of this horrible “experiment” and their families. In my eyes all of the survivors are heroes. I hope that you all and your families are blessed!!

  21. Crystal Hembree

    When I was told about what went on so many years ago to the poor unsuspecting men of Tuskegee, my eyes began to water and my jaw dropped to the floor. I am now even more grieved to learn that there are no survivors of this horrible “experiment.” My heart goes out to the surviving family members and I only hope that I have the courage to face life the way these men did. God Bless you all.

  22. Natalie Noel

    Everyone deserves the right to good and fair medical treatment, no matter of gender, age, or age. The US government was very deceitful to the men of the Tuskegee Experiment, and I offer my sympathy to the all who were participants and the families of the participants of this horrific experiment. I hope that as a people we have learned from this appalling experiment that no one deserves to be treated unjust!! Ernest Hendon will be remembered for being the last to survive the Tuskegee Experiment.

  23. Michelle Chatterton

    This semester in my Biology class my Professor is teaching about the Tuskegee Experiment. I was apalled at the injustice the government did to those innocent men. My thoughts and prayers goes out to the families.

  24. Tina Kelsey

    My heart goes out to anyone who was a victim of the Tuskeegee Syphillis Experiment. Thanks to my biology class I would of never knew that this even existed. That goes to show you that our government cannot be trusted to the highest degree. That really gives our nation something to think about. If they lied way back in the 1930’s it isnt no telling what lies or secrets they are withholding from us now. I pray that God be with each and every one of you.

  25. terry Jackson

    To the family members of the Tuskegee experiance not knowing where family members where missing or been taking to had to be painful.To find out after every thing that really happen some of the Dr’s do not feel bad or sorry for what they have done.

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