Friday, July 18, 2014

Medicine and War

War and medicine have always been linked. Surgical instruments are often developed by military surgeons--Army/Navy retractors, Russian forceps, Jackson-Pratt drains, external fixators, to name just a few of the instruments developed by military surgeons. Sometimes this is obvious by the name, sometimes not. But war has helped with the development of medicine, as medicine has struggled to cope with the devastation of war. And physicians have at times been involved in development of "better ways to kill."

I have never been in a war. The closest I have come was working in inner city hospitals while drug cartels were fighting for "turf." But, I could return home to the safety of a middle class community where shootings were rare. Nevertheless, I have worked with Physicians for Social Responsibility and EMERGENCY to try to help prevent war and care for the civilian victims of war.

Tonight, as I learned more about the Malaysian Airlines jet shot down in Ukraine, I learned that there were 41 war zones around the world. Forty-one. The number surprises me and yet it does not. I know that we have always been a violent species. Perhaps, this is a typical number.

Tonight, I learned of another way war has affected medicine. One hundred AIDS researchers were killed in Malaysian Airlines jet shot down over Ukraine.( and Usually, medical researchers spend much of their time in academic settings, being exposed only to the violence and drug use of the inner city. Perhaps some of the researchers studied people in less developed parts of the world. Even so, they likely thought that they were heading to a convention in a peaceful part of the world, Australia. They may have even been bringing their families, evidenced by many children on the flight. They likely had taken many flights before, and so were not worried about the risks of flying.

The passengers were likely watching a movie, reviewing notes on a computer or sleeping as the plane flew at 30,000 feet. They didn't think about what they were flying over. So many war zones between the Netherlands and Malaysia. Passenger planes surely avoid the major war zones. Few of the passengers thought of the risk, until it happened. Until a passenger jet was shot from the sky.

It may have been a case of mistaken identity. Even so, the shooting down of the Malaysian Airlines jet over Ukraine may have an effect on the health of the world's citizens for years to come.

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