Addresses the issues at the heart of international medicine and social responsibility.
During the last half-century many international declarations have proclaimed health care to be a fundamental human right. But high aspirations repeatedly confront harsh realities, in societies both rich and poor. To illustrate this disparity, David and Sheila Rothman bring together stories from their investigations around the world into medical abuses. A central theme runs through their account: how the principles of human rights, including bodily integrity, informed consent, and freedom from coercion, should guide physicians and governments in dealing with patients and health care.
Over the past two decades, the Rothmans have visited post-Ceausescu Romania, where they uncovered the primitive medical practices that together with state oppression caused hundreds of orphans to develop AIDS. They have monitored the exploitative international traffic in organs in India, China, Singapore, and the Philippines. One of the most controversial questions they explore is experimentation on human beings, whether in studies of the effects of radioactive iron on pregnant women in 1940s Tennessee or in contemporary trials of AIDS drugs in the third world. And they examine a number of rulings by South Africa’s Constitutional Court that have suggested practical ways of reconciling the right to health care with its society’s limited resources.
Whether discussing the training of young doctors in the US, the effects of segregation on medicine in Zimbabwe, or proposals for rationing health care, David and Sheila Rothman conclude that an ethical and professional concern for observing medicine’s oldest commandment—do no harm—must be joined with a profound commitment to protecting human rights.
About the Author
David J. Rothman is Bernard Schoenberg Professor of Social Medicine, professor of history, and director of the Center for the Study of Science and Medicine at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University. He is the author of numerous works, including The Willowbrook Wars, The Discovery of the Asylum, and The Pursuit of Perfection: The Promise and Perils of Medical Enhancement.
Sheila M. Rothman is professor of public health in the Division of Sociomedical Sciences at Columbia University. Her books include "Woman's Proper Place: A History of Changing Ideals and Practices, 1870 to the Present", and "Living in the Shadow of Death: Tuberculosis and the Experience of Illness in American History".
Aryeh Neier is president emeritus of the Open Society Foundations and distinguished visiting professor at the Paris School of International Affairs of Sciences Po. Previously he was executive director of Human Rights Watch and executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union. A contributor to many major publications, he is the author of "Taking Liberties and War Crimes", among other books.