Saturday, December 8, 2012

WWII : penicillin as punishment for self-inflicted wounds - or for saving lives ?

In WWII, they used PENICILLIN , instead....
Dr Howard Florey's deep and sharp (fundamental) differences with Dr Henry Dawson on the appropriate application of wartime penicillin were not over matters narrowly "scientific" or "medical" but rather were differences in philosophy and ethics.

Were the Allies to devote a limited amount of resources to producing just enough penicillin to use as a punishment in cases of self-inflicted wounds such as VD , as Florey and his mentor Dr AN Richards acquiesced in or advocated ?

 Or were the Allies to devote resources to produce enough penicillin - not in spite of it being wartime, but particularly because it was wartime - to treat all people dying of disease (regardless of income, race or gender) as a highly popular and public example of the ethical nature of Allied War Aims, as advocated and practised by Henry Dawson ?

Penicillin only became popular among the military elite of Britain, Canada and America in 1943, when it became apparent that combat troops in the European Theatre, fearing the worst against the tough Germans, were deliberately infecting themselves with VD, in hopes of a two month treatment away from the upcoming invasion of Sicily.

Deliberately getting VD, by not using Army-provided free condoms was considered a Self-Inflicted Wound, SIW, and during WWI made a Capital Offense punishable by death by firing squad.

Even during the Second World War, it could mean being sent to the dreaded Glasshouse military prisons, where the policy was to inflict punishment so severe that potential death at the front was considered a better alternative.

Unfortunately from the senior officers' point of view, many still preferred the Glasshouse, so punishment for VD cases of SIW was considered counter-productive, as it led to severely deplete ranks among the combat elite forces who faced the highest chances of dying in the invasion of Sicily.

If these combat troops were out of action, other men's sons ( like their own) would simply be 'called up' in their place and so using penicillin as a punishment was wildly popular among the officer class in the rear echelons of wartime reality.

Rather than waste penicillin on saving the lives of men so seriously wounded they would never return to fight and who - if they survived - would simply become 'useless mouths' consuming medical resources and pension funds, divert the penicillin to rapidly curing non-fatal cases of gonorrhoea among the elite combat troops.

A two day cure ( with painful penicillin shots) and they'd be back in the Front.

Why bother to waste bullets on an Allied firing squad for the offense of SIW : why not let German combat bullets do the job instead ?

We must never forget that both sides practised the policy of death for 'useless mouths' : the Allies made it "death by neglect", the Nazis "death by deliberate murder".

Deliberately limiting resources for the production of wartime penicillin was the Allies' Aktion T4

To Dawson, and to me,  the notion of killing of the weak because they are considered useless as war workers and just a burden on the wartime economy is simply wrong, no  matter how it happens.

Death is death.....

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