Saturday, January 30, 2016

growing hope in the depths of WWII, a handful of doctors defeat the Beltway to bring 'penicillin for all'

In early 1943, firmly under the coercive protocol control of elite doctors & scientists in the Beltway's OSRD-CMR and NAS-COC, wartime penicillin was all set to be added to the postwar list of moral calamities thrown up by the Allied effort.

It would have been right up there too, along with the Allies ignoring contemporary evidence about Katyn Forest massacre and the ongoing Holocaust and with doing little to reduce the famine deaths caused by their siege tactics in Greece, Viet Nam and elsewhere.

Joined here by the British MOS (Ministry of Supply) Penicillin Committee, the Beltway plan was to keep penicillin clinical successes as secret as possible and then to release it on D-Day as a weapon of war.

To wit : both governments' lead agencies agreed to divert only enough of national resources otherwise devoted to weapons to produce enough wartime penicillin to treat lightly wounded frontline Allied troops --- and no more.

None, if possible, to be produced for Allied POWs,  for the severely wounded Allied troops and enemy POWs --- or for dying civilian patients in the Allied, Neutral,Occupied and Enemy nations.

This plan totally violated both the letter and the spirit of the existing Geneva Convention that wartime medical care was to go to all in need, foe or friend, civilian or soldier, alike.

And one shudders to think how many more cold, hungry and ill throughout the war-torn lands would have died in the first years after the war, if penicillin hadn't been available when and where needed.

Honor then the handful of  humanitarian doctors and scientists around the world who, despite the pressures of total war conformity, refused to go along with this moral charade and hand grew off-the-protocol crude penicillin to save the dying before them.

I will here only mention a few : the teams led by Drs Henry Dawson,  Robert Pulvertaft, Frank B Queen, JV Duhig, John F Mahoney, Wallace Herrell, George Marshal Findlay.

Add to them, people like publisher Dr James McKeen Cattell of the journal Science and pharmacist Fred Stock and chemist Larry Elder of the WPB.

Traditionally the WPB, as the biggest and most intrusive wartime agency, is seen by many (particularly by partisans of small government) as the very symbol of the Beltway.

I am not sure this was the case ever  and especially so in the example of penicillin...

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