Early in the twentieth century governments all over the world thought they had found a rational, efficient, and scientific solution to the related problems of poverty, crime, and hereditary illness. Scientists hoped they might be able to help societies control the social problems that arose from these phenomena. From Mexico to Maine, from Switzerland and Scandinavia to South Carolina, from India to Indiana, the science-turned-social-policy known as eugenics became a base-line around which social services and welfare legislation were organized.
On September 13, 2011, the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues released its report on the syphilis experiments conducted by the US government in Guatemala in the 1940s. Over 1300 prisoners, prostitutes, psychiatric patients, and soldiers in Guatemala were infected with sexually transmissible diseases (through supervised sexual relations among other methods), in an attempt to better understand treatments for diseases such as syphilis.