GUEST COLUMN

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Conflict

Meet Our Featured Guest Columnist:
Dr. Bernard Lown

co-founded the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War with Dr. Evgueni Chazov, a Soviet cardiologist. The organization won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985.

Q: How did you first get involved in health and human rights issues?

A: In 1961, I had invented a new way of restoring a normal heartbeat, the defibrillator, and I was riding on a crest of a wave. At this point, a friend of mine asked me to go listen to a Brit, a professor from Britain, Philip Noel-Baker. I said, "Why do I want to listen to Philip Noel-Baker?" He says, "He won a Nobel prize." So I said, "In medicine?" "No, in peace." So I laughed and I was not interested, but he pushed me hard and I went to hear him talk. That talk was chilling. He said that humankind has no future. There will not be any civilization by the year 2000 if we do not tame the nuclear beast. His talk had an enormous effect on me. I mean so profound; here in my career, I was working on sudden cardiac death, the leading cause of fatality in the industrialized world. And now I realized that sudden death will not be cardiac but nuclear. So, I called together a group of people... and the more we learned, the more we were horrified at the criminality, at the immorality, at the injustice of it. So, we began to talk and we founded an organization, Physicians for Social Responsibility. But our major contribution, which made a profound impact, was to carry out a study of the effects, the medical effects, on Boston of a thermonuclear strike, and this was extraordinary; I mean extraordinary even now. When I reflect all these years later, it sends a chill through my body because a thermonuclear bomb dropped on Boston at the time would have killed two-thirds of Boston population. Two million would have been dead within about 24 hours. Half a million would be fatally injured. Of Boston's 6,000 physicians, 5,000 would be dead; 1,000 would be left to take care of casualties more than the mind could imagine and they had nothing to offer. There were no medicines, no appliances, nothing. So the doctor had to conceive a new role, a role of euthanasia. If he was a humane figure and so indescribable suffering, what is his duty? But society did not bequeath him with the responsibility or the legality or the power to do away with human being, nor is that the calling of a physician to kill people; but, that's the only thing left to him. We wrote it up and we published it in the New England Journal of Medicine. It occupied an entire issue and the next there were headlines all over the world and we changed reality. We also helped stimulate such studies all across the world, the same model that we used of study, the same scientific analysis was utilized in Germany, in Holland, in Britain, in Cleveland, in Pittsburgh, in San Francisco. So we created a dialogue and the most important thing in a democratic society is an informed citizenry that engages in dialogue.

Meet Our Featured Guest Columnist:
Jody Williams

coordinated the International Campaign to Ban Landmines and received a Nobel Peace Prize for her work.

Q: How did you get involved in the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL)?

A: By the late 1980s, there was the beginning of awareness about a significant global landmine problem and small steps were being taken to try to deal with the problem. I was asked if I thought it would be possible to harness that emerging awareness to create a coalition of nongovernmental organizations that would work together in a coordinated political effort to get rid of landmines - this was in 1991. By then, I had been working for more than a decade on issues related to the wars in Central America, but with the end of the Cold War, people began to look at war and peace differently. So did I and I began to want to work on an issue that had the possibility of global reach and impact.


Meet Our Featured Guest Columnist:
Dr. Ciro de Quadros

is Director of International Programs at the Sabin Vaccine Institute. At the Pan American Health Organization, he led the successful campaign eradicate poliomyelitis from the Americas.

Q: What does "health and human rights" mean to you?

A: Health is a human right in the sense that it is a global public health good and has to be attained by all individuals. 

Meet Our Featured Guest Columnist:
Niko and Theo Milonopoulos

founded Kidz Voice-LA and Vox Populi after a series of shootings in their North Hollywood neighborhood. They encourage young people to get involved in the prevention of gun violence, have led marches and rallies, and have testified at legislative hearings. In 2007, the Los Angeles City Council unanimously approved a bill they drafted which requires that gun dealers post warning labels on storefronts and sales receipts highlighting the risks of having a gun in the home.

Q: What does "health and human rights" mean to you?

A: Health and human rights are the basic building blocks of our world community. They are pervasively intertwined: the physical, emotional and behavioral well-being of any child, woman or man is a necessary prerequisite for exercising our most cherished rights and freedoms just as basic guarantees of human rights ensure that all people - regardless of race, income or origin - are provided equal access to healthcare services. Health and human rights guarantee that we live in a safe, vibrant society free from the threats of violence, poverty, and disease.

Meet Our Featured Guest Columnist:
Dr. Bernard Lown

co-founded the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War with Dr. Evgueni Chazov, a Soviet cardiologist. The organization won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985.

Q: How did you first get involved in health and human rights issues?

A: In 1961, I had invented a new way of restoring a normal heartbeat, the defibrillator, and I was riding on a crest of a wave. At this point, a friend of mine asked me to go listen to a Brit, a professor from Britain, Philip Noel-Baker. I said, "Why do I want to listen to Philip Noel-Baker?" He says, "He won a Nobel prize." So I said, "In medicine?" "No, in peace." So I laughed and I was not interested, but he pushed me hard and I went to hear him talk. That talk was chilling. He said that humankind has no future. There will not be any civilization by the year 2000 if we do not tame the nuclear beast. His talk had an enormous effect on me. I mean so profound; here in my career, I was working on sudden cardiac death, the leading cause of fatality in the industrialized world. And now I realized that sudden death will not be cardiac but nuclear. So, I called together a group of people... and the more we learned, the more we were horrified at the criminality, at the immorality, at the injustice of it. So, we began to talk and we founded an organization, Physicians for Social Responsibility. But our major contribution, which made a profound impact, was to carry out a study of the effects, the medical effects, on Boston of a thermonuclear strike, and this was extraordinary; I mean extraordinary even now. When I reflect all these years later, it sends a chill through my body because a thermonuclear bomb dropped on Boston at the time would have killed two-thirds of Boston population. Two million would have been dead within about 24 hours. Half a million would be fatally injured. Of Boston's 6,000 physicians, 5,000 would be dead; 1,000 would be left to take care of casualties more than the mind could imagine and they had nothing to offer. There were no medicines, no appliances, nothing. So the doctor had to conceive a new role, a role of euthanasia. If he was a humane figure and so indescribable suffering, what is his duty? But society did not bequeath him with the responsibility or the legality or the power to do away with human being, nor is that the calling of a physician to kill people; but, that's the only thing left to him. We wrote it up and we published it in the New England Journal of Medicine. It occupied an entire issue and the next there were headlines all over the world and we changed reality. We also helped stimulate such studies all across the world, the same model that we used of study, the same scientific analysis was utilized in Germany, in Holland, in Britain, in Cleveland, in Pittsburgh, in San Francisco. So we created a dialogue and the most important thing in a democratic society is an informed citizenry that engages in dialogue.

Meet Our Featured Guest Columnist:
Dr. Peter van den Dungen

is an honorary visiting lecturer in the department of peace studies at the University of Bradford. He has written many articles and book chapters on the history of peace movements, and general coordinator of the International Network of Peace Museums.

Q: What does "health and human rights" mean to you, in relation to peace and conflict?

A: Peace, since times immemorial, has been associated with plenty, and health, and happiness, and war with its opposite. In the world today, we do not have to look far to find ample confirmation of this truth. War suddenly puts an end to all certainties and makes for great insecurities all round; starting war is like opening Pandora's box. As the French philosopher Voltaire said so well, "War is a crime and a folly which incorporates all crimes and all follies". That is a lesson which the world should have learnt by now, but sadly has not, or not sufficiently so. In war, human rights get trampled upon, not only in the country on whose territory the war is mainly fought.


Meet Our Featured Guest Columnist:
Dr. Juan Manuel Canales Ruiz

Dr. Juan Manuel Canales Ruiz is a physician, epidemiologist, and health and human rights advocate. For over twenty-five years he has worked with indigenous populations in conflict-affected regions in Mexico and Ecuador. He has founded community health and education programs and currently works at the Hospital San Carlos Altamirano in Chiapas, Mexico. Dr. Canales Ruiz is the 2006 recipient of the Jonathan Mann Award for Global Health and Human Rights.

Q: What does health and human rights mean to you?

A: Health has been a banner of the fight for social movements in the past and by the unionists, generally the organized population. Public health services should be of good quality and with human warmth, so that the patient has confidence and won't be mistreated by those who work in hospitals, health centers, and health clinics.
In the past century after two world wars where human rights of the civilians were violated, the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Men and Women had to be written, spelling out all human rights. Governments around the world are signatories of the Declaration, thus are obligated to comply, upholding all human rights, [including the right to health].