Peter Buxtun to Share Historic Tale on Nov. 12
615 N. Wolfe Street
Peter Buxtun, a former employee of the U.S. Public Health Service who became known as the whistleblower responsible for ending the Tuskegee syphilis experiment, will speak on Nov. 12 as part of the Berman Institute of Bioethics’ annual seminar series. His talk is entitled, “Marked Men: In Case You Didn’t Know About Tuskegee.”
Buxtun, then a 27-year-old social worker and epidemiologist in San Francisco, was hired by the Public Health Service in December 1965to interview patients with sexually transmitted diseases; in the course of his duties, he learned of the Tuskegee Experiment from co-workers. He later said—”I didn’t want to believe it. This was the Public Health Service. We didn’t do things like that.” In November 1966, he filed an official protest on ethical grounds with the Service’s Division of Venereal Diseases; this was rejected on the grounds that the Experiment was not yet complete. He filed another protest in November 1968; again, his concerns were ruled irrelevant.
In 1972, Buxtun leaked information on the Tuskegee Experiment to the Washington Stare. Heller’s story exposing the Experiment was published on July 25, 1972; It became front-page news in the New York Times the following day. Senator Edward Kennedy called Congressional hearings, at which Buxtun and HEW officials testified and the Experiment was terminated shortly thereafter.