Sunday, September 24, 2006

Pay Attention, Lest Death Be The Price

[Posted by reader_iam]

Because inattention, like arrogant ignorance (and ignorant arrogance), carries a cost that balloons into debt unpayable.

Six medical workers face death by firing squad if sense, science and conscience don't prevail.
Lawyers defending six medical workers who risk execution by firing squad in Libya have called for the international scientific community to support a bid to prove the medics' innocence. The six are charged with deliberately infecting more than 400 children with HIV at the al-Fateh Hospital in Benghazi in 1998, so far causing the deaths of at least 40 of them.
One reason for the lack of interest [added: among scientists], he says, is the widespread notion that the trial is a sideshow, and that the "real decisions" will be made by diplomats (see Libya's travesty). Altit argues that diplomacy has so far failed to secure results, and that the medics' release will only be secured by using scientific evidence to fight the case in the Tripoli courtroom. He hopes that exposing the "emptiness" of the prosecution case will ramp up enough international pressure to force governments to take action.

At present, the case has been sidelined by broader geopolitical interests in the opening of oil-rich Libya to international relations, says Antoine Alexiev, another defence lawyer on the case. The United States decided in May to re-establish diplomatic relations with Libya. And Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan leader, has been given red-carpet treatment at the European Union's headquarters in Brussels — without mention of the medics' situation.

[Emphasis added to underscore a failure of sufficient attention on the part of the U.S. AND the EU, regardless of whether at least one major blog site chooses to emphasis only ONE part of the equation (while extolling its nonpartisan effort). How self-serving and cynical of it, given that it clearly read the same articles that I did. Not that it doesn't still deserve great credit for lending its reach to the cause.]
... The researchers carried out a genetic analysis of viruses from the infected children, and concluded that many of them were infected long before the medics set foot in Libya in March 1998. Many of the children were also infected with hepatitis B and C, suggesting that the infections were spread by poor hospital hygiene. The infections were caused by subtypes of A/G HIV-1 — a recombinant strain common in central and west Africa, known to be highly infectious.

But the court threw out the report ... .

This is an international failing and an utter disgrace to any country and international entity which could bring pressure to bear, specifically including the U.S. AND the EU. Apart from the scientific issue--which should be enough, in any rational and sensible world, in this sort of case--there is also another one: Why should any international health-care worker ever supply desperately needed services and care to the most needy and vulnerable in the world if this sort of travesty is the consequence? Especially with the acquiescence--by omission, at least--of the world?

Write, blog, call--whatever. Do something. And if you're a scientist in a relevent field, do whatever you can do, or if you know someone who is a scientist in a relevent field, ask him or her to speak out, in whatever fashion, and/or contact appropriate professional organizations or affiliations.

The illness and death of the children is a tragedy. However terrible that is, it doesn't excuse how the fate of the medical workers is being handled. Or the insufficient attention of the world community.


While you're thinking of issues of conscience, please keep these cases in mind as well: