Observations Life and death

Exploitation and apology

BMJ 2007; 334 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.39206.640903.94 (Published 10 May 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;334:981
  1. Iona Heath, general practitioner
  1. London
  1. iona.heath{at}dsl.pipex.com

    Politicians have recently apologised for Britain's role in the slave trade, but the West's exploitation of the human resources of the world's poorest countries continues in other guises

    Over four centuries slavery coerced, distorted, and destroyed the lives and relationships of countless men, women, and children—and its reverberations continue to damage lives today. It is impossible to know exactly how many people were subjected to slavery, but it is estimated that at least 12 million Africans were loaded on to transatlantic slave ships and that about three million died on the journey.

    This year, in the United Kingdom, the bicentenary of the 1807 Abolition of Slavery Act has been marked by a number of formal apologies. These have been more or less fulsome but must, at best, be considered hypocritical in the context of the world's richest countries' continuing and systematic exploitation of the poorest, particularly in Africa.

    Rich countries, the UK prominent among them, are systematically recruiting trained healthcare professionals from among the poorest countries in the world. The extent of the problem was made very clear by Working Together for …

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