Letters

Doctors have moral imperative to call for end to embargo on Cuba

BMJ 1997; 315 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.315.7120.1463a (Published 29 November 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;315:1463
  1. Delia Parnham-Cope, Specialist registrar in accident and emergency medicinea
  1. a Conquest Hospital, St Leonards on Sea, East Sussex TN37 7RD

    See editorial by Delamothe

    Editor—The news story on Cuban refugees who mutilated themselves in order to enter the United States missed an important point.1 The Cuban economy has collapsed for two main reasons: there has been reduced economic support from the former Soviet Union during the past decade, but the main problem has been the trade embargo imposed on Cuba by the United States in 1960. This embargo was strengthened by the Helms Burton Act in 1996. Before the act was passed, the United Nations tried repeatedly to have the embargo repealed; in 1995 the vote was 137 against the embargo and three in favour. I travelled extensively in Cuba in 1993, visiting hospitals and talking to doctors. The conditions then were poor but have deteriorated further since the Helms Burton Act.

    The editorial from the New England Journal of Medicine on which the news article was based adds that “economic sanctions are, at their core, a war against public health. … Thus, as physicians, we have a moral imperative to call for the end of sanctions.”2 A report by the American Association for World Health found that the embargo resulted in “malnutrition, poor water quality and the denial of access to medical equipment and drugs.”3 With a change in government and with a Foreign Office more interested in human rights issues it is time for British doctors to be calling for the embargo against Cuba to be lifted.

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