updated 3/14/2011 1:08:10 PM ET 2011-03-14T17:08:10

Guatemalans subjected to U.S. syphilis experiments in the 1940s are suing federal health officials to compensate them for health problems they have suffered.

The lawsuit comes after revelations that U.S. scientists studying the effects of penicillin in the 1940s deliberately infected about 700 Guatemalan prisoners, mental patients, soldiers and orphans. None was informed or gave consent.

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Attorneys representing the Guatemalans asked the Obama administration to set up an out-of-court claims process similar to those established in the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks. But they say they got no response by a Friday deadline and so filed the suit Monday.

The Guatemalan experiments were hidden for decades, until a medical historian uncovered the records in 2009.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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