Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Deadly Agents

Those of us who'd taken an interest in the fate of the Tripoli Six were pleased by their release last week. But as Harriet A. Washington reminds us, their liberation may intensify the problems that led to their imprisonment.

[T]o many Africans, the accusations, which have been validated by a guilty verdict and a promise to reimburse the families of the infected children with a $426 million payout, seem perfectly plausible. The medical workers’ release appears to be the latest episode in a health care nightmare in which white and Western-trained doctors and nurses have harmed Africans — and have gone unpunished.
As I said in an earlier post:
It's easy to feel impatient with these people, whose fanaticism blinds them to the fact that while we might bomb Muslims indiscriminately, or imprison and torture them indefinitely, or dump toxic waste along their shorelines, we are not going to shoot their children up with pathogen-laced vaccines.
People who speak about "completing the project of the Enlightenment" usually aren't talking about performing medical experiments on the poor and powerless. Regardless, this sort of research comes a bit closer to certain cultures' understanding of "Science" than the relentlessly cheerful abstractions of, say, Richard Dawkins.
Africa has harbored a number of high-profile Western medical miscreants who have intentionally administered deadly agents under the guise of providing health care or conducting research....

These medical killers are well known throughout Africa, but the most notorious is Wouter Basson, a former head of Project Coast, South Africa’s chemical and biological weapons unit under apartheid. Dr. Basson was charged with killing hundreds of blacks in South Africa and Namibia, from 1979 to 1987, many via injected poisons. He was never convicted in South African courts, even though his lieutenants testified in detail and with consistency about the medical crimes they conducted against blacks.
These are exceptions, of course, and Ms Washington is careful to acknowledge that fact. But as Adorno pointed, it's perfectly normal to "neutralize the key phenomena of social injustice as mere exceptions."

Meanwhile, via Adventus:
[L]ast fall, a psychologist named Jean Maria Arrigo came to see me with a disturbing claim about the American Psychological Association, her profession's 148,000-member trade group. Arrigo had sat on a specially convened A.P.A. task force that, in July 2005, had ruled that psychologists could assist in military interrogations, despite angry objections from many in the profession. The task force also determined that, in cases where international human-rights law conflicts with U.S. law, psychologists could defer to the much looser U.S. standards—what Arrigo called the "Rumsfeld definition" of humane treatment.


Anonymous said...

Interesting that you bring up the APA. When I read it, I immediately thought of an article in yesterday's Times, about the death penalty in Missouri.

It seems that a doctor who was working for the state to help kill people gave doses of sedative that were too small. He testified anonymously that he's dyslexic, and therefore couldn't help giving the wrong dose. A St. Louis newspaper discovered the doctor's name, and the fact that he's been in trouble often for giving poor treatment.

Missouri solved the problem by making it illegal to disclose the name of anybody working on an execution, and illegal for the medical board to pull someone's license for failing the "first do no harm" bit of the oath.

Seems you don't have to go to Africa to find doctors killing patients. Just go to Missouri.

Phila said...

Seems you don't have to go to Africa to find doctors killing patients. Just go to Missouri.

Or Cincinnati...