Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Punishment for Aiding the Sick is Death!

This is a bizarre story. Apparently, in 1998, 400 plus children at the Al Fateh Children's hospital in Benghazi, Lybia became infected with AIDs. Lybia had a trial and has sentenced one Palestinian doctor and five Bulgarian nurses to death for the outbreak. These doctors and nurses are now known as the Tripoli 6.

So the question is, when something really bad happens, what do we do?

The families affected by the disease are overcome with emotion. A common emotion after a tragedy is the demand for justice. The knee-jerk reaction of sentencing the doctor and nurses to death is understandable when we look at the case soley from the victim's point of view. This view says: "I suffered; therefore those suffer!"

The International community views this and sees a different beast. They see the fault lying with the bad sanitary conditions and practices of the hospital. Should nurses, who are willing to work abroad in poor sanitary conditions, be punished for the results of those poor sanitary conditions? The reflexive paradox kicks in here. If you punish people willing to work with the poor in poor conditions, you end up destroying the path to better conditions.

The case also shows the idiocies of conspiracy theories. Khadaffi, the progressive leader of Lybia, had decided that a disease of the decadant west could not exist in his moral, progressive society. 400 children getting sick could not be the result of poor hygiene in a Lybian hospital. Therefore, the contamination must be part of a plot by the CIA and Zionists. Early in the case, Khadaffi's claimed that the CIA infected the children with a genetically modified strain of HIV. Such conspiracies play well in the Arab media.

Jeff Weintraub sites a number of references which seem to indicate that the children were affected by more than just HIV. Some of the children have different strains of HIV. Possibly some were infected before entering the hospital. (Hmmm, if one of the patients was the primary vector for the disease; shouldn't that patient, if still living, be included in the group being executed for the contamination?)

A growing portion of the Arab media seems to be on the side of the doctors.

The Bulgarian News Agency has a informative report on the case. (The english version is currently missing the frameset). Judith has a good piece on the problem in the WSJ Opinion Journal.

No comments: