The Secret is Out

Author: Sylvia Kniest

Time: 3 class periods
Copy articles on the Tuskegee Study and Human Experimentation and the Glossary of Clinical Trials.
Write discussion questions on the board for day 1 or photocopy them for each student.
Copy worksheet “Citizens and Their Rights in Medical Research”
Materials: Articles, discussion questions ,exit slips and worksheets


Students will research the history of biomedical research and the development of ethics in clinical trials.

Students will be able to:
1. Be able to list the ethical issues involved in biomedical research.
2. Be able to define informed consent.
3. Describe the primary components of an informed consent document.
4. Discuss the role of government in protecting the rights of citizens.

National Standards For Civics and Government
V-B What are the rights of citizens?
V-E How can citizens take part in civic life?

Teacher Background
For Day 1:
Copy the article on the Tuskegee Syphilis Study from the website: http://www.npr.org/programs/morning/features/2002/jul/tuskegee/
Copy timeline from: http://www.cdc.gov/nchstp/od/tuskegee/time.htm

For Day 2:
Copy article- A History of US Secret Human Experimentation” from either web site: http://www.rense.com/general36/history.htm OR http://www.abovetopsecret.com/pages/experimentation.html
Copy “Glossary of Clinical Trials” from: http://clinicaltrials.gov/ct/info/glossary#protocols

Resource Websites
http://www.npr.org/programs/morning/features/2002/jul/tuskegee/ : “Remembering Tuskegee:
Syphilis Study Still Provokes Disbelief, Sadness”
http://www.cdc.gov/nchstp/od/tuskegee/time.htm : “The Tuskegee Timeline”
http://www.rense.com/general36/history.htm “A History of US Secret Human Experimentation”
http://www.abovetopsecret.com/pages/experimentation.html “A History of US Secret Human Experimentation”
http://clinicaltrials.gov/ct/info/glossary#protocols “Glossary of Clinical Trials”



Day 1
Pass out the article, “Remembering Tuskegee: Syphilis Study Still provokes Disbelief, Sadness” and the “Tuskegee Timeline” and ask students to pair up with a partner to read the articles and discuss the following questions.


1. What was the purpose of the Tuskegee Study?
2. What incentives were provided to encourage people to participate in the study?
3. Why do you think the study was conducted in this particular community?
4. How long did the study last?
5. What was wrong with the way the study was conducted? List 3 – 4 ethical issues that were violated.

Allow 20 minutes for the students to read and discuss the questions and then hold a class discussion where students share their responses to the questions.
At the end of the period pass out “exit slips” to the students (these can be note cards or slips of paper). Instruct students to write a reaction to the class discussion in one sentence. Collect the exit slips as the students leave the room.

Day 2 and 3
1. Hand out the timeline, “A History of US Secret Human Experimentation” to the students.
2. Have students work in groups of 2-3. Instruct them to read through the timeline to highlight what they consider to be the 10 worst examples of human experimentation. Tell them to prepare to defend their list.
3. After the groups have reached a consensus have them share and defend their lists with the rest of the class.

1. Students will work in their groups to set up a list of guidelines for conducting biomedical research on human subjects. Inform students that the purpose is to provide a list of protocols to ensure that future studies protect the rights and health of human subjects. Hand out one worksheet, “Citizens and Rights in Medical Research” and one copy of “Glossary of Clinical Trials” from http://clinicaltrials.gov/ct/info/glossary#protocols to each group.

Have groups share their federal guidelines for clinical trials on day three.

Embedded Assessment
Students can be assessed through their responses during class discussions, their responses on the worksheet and their exit slips.

PULSE is a project of the Community Outreach and Education Program of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center and is funded by:

NIH/NCRR award #16260-01A1
The Community Outreach and Education Program is part of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center: an NIEHS Award


Supported by NIEHS grant # ES06694

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Last update: November 10, 2009
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