Personal Views

Ketamine and Kalashnikovs

BMJ 1997; 315 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.315.7120.1473 (Published 29 November 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;315:1473
  1. James Rogers, senior registrar in anaesthesia
  1. Bristol

    Fridays are mine injury days. The local custom at the end of the week is to eat alfresco, but the picnics take place in one of the world's most heavily mined areas. One step too many off the marked paths and a young man lies asleep on the operating table while his father is ushered in to inspect the mutilated limb. The older man remains impassive at the grotesque sight—as head of the family he just wants to make sure the leg is beyond salvage before giving consent for amputation. All in all, it's a routine trauma list.

    This is Kandahar, in the Taliban heartland of southern Afghanistan, and home for a three month mission working as an anaesthetist for the British Red Cross. The hospital is supported by the International Committee of the Red Cross, which has a mandate to provide humanitarian aid in areas of conflict. The emblem is displayed prominently at the entrance alongside two notices, one prohibiting weapons within the building, the other a reminder not to spit on the floor.

    The Taliban arose from refugee camps in neighbouring Pakistan and Iran, and have swept north to control most of the country. Their imposition of religious law—sharia—is brutally strict, and has been widely reported in the …

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