A central resource for individuals with congenital or aquired limb loss, their families, carers and healthcare professionals
  • select font size  
  • small text
  • medium text
  • large text

News

Unnecessary Amputations performed in Haiti?

by wendy

by Gallia Watch

(by Tiberge)

“To help you stay au courant of what French patriots are doing and saying in this time of turmoil and loss of nationhood. This website is for those with a limited knowledge of French and a boundless interest in saving European cultures from extinction.”

A woman pulled alive from the rubble following the earthquake in Haiti

A woman pulled alive from the rubble following the earthquake in Haiti

On Wednesday I received the following “Flash” from Novopress regarding unnecessary amputations performed by American doctors in Haïti:

Many members of the French humanitarian personnel sent to Haiti are starting to testify to the hasty practices of the American medical teams. In this case it concerns the thousands of amputations, for the most part improvised or performed without a medical follow-up, that were said to have been carried out in a systematic way.

The worst accusation is in that last line: “in a systematic way.” This implies a deliberate policy of amputation without medical justification. This particular accusation was in Le Monde.

Concerned by this news, I did a very quick Google search, but there is so much information about Haiti, it is impossible to know where to begin or whom to believe.

Articles in the NYT attest to the massive influx of wounded, including amputees, that are being brought into American hospitals. The Florida facilities became saturated and the victims are now being brought to other cities on the East Coast, including Atlanta, Philadelphia, New York, and Boston.

It is very difficult to find the truth in view of the poor Franco-American relations, the absolute confusion that reigned on the island, the magnitude of the disaster, the impossibility of avoiding amputations, hence the difficulty in knowing which ones were justified and which were not, and no small amount of prejudice against the US, as well as some understandable criticisms, especially of the Baptists who “stole” or attempted to steal children, presumably for adoption.

I cannot do anything near an exhaustive research. Here are some links. Please do your own Googling. I used keywords such as “Amputations in Haiti”, “French doctors accuse Americans”, and things of that nature.

ENGLISH-LANGUAGE ARTICLES:

This article from Expatica discusses mass amputations, from the point of view of French doctors, without accusing anyone of wrongdoing. Here is just one excerpt:

Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders, MSF) “have carried out caesareans and amputations. MSF’s experienced medical staff say they have never seen so many people with such serious injuries,” the group said in a statement issued in Paris.

Here is a vivid and very disturbing article from New Jersey News, on the incredible number of amputees. Check out the very graphic slide show. Some excerpts:

“We had people who had been amputated just so they could be pulled from the rubble,” Fletcher said by phone Thursday night, as another helicopter with patients readied to land. “That means it was done in the field, with no anesthesia, and they showed up here with an infected stump.”

Fletcher, a general surgeon at St. Barnabas Medical Center, was among the dozens of local physicians and health care workers who volunteered in Haiti after the country’s medical system collapsed in the earthquake.

“I have no way to describe the patient load,” said Margaret Olibrice Saint-Fleur, a Livingston resident who returned from a three-day mission in Port-au-Prince last week. “I have never seen so many amputees in my career.” (…)

Fletcher, along with three other doctors and two nurses from St. Barnabas, flew into northern Haiti four days after the earthquake struck, using funds from the Knights of Malta, a Catholic charity. They headed to the Hopital Sacre Coeur, a private facility that was unaffected and relatively well-stocked to receive patients airlifted by the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Navy. Their operations grew more frenzied as the week wore on. (…)

“We were doing 20 to 25 operations a day then,” the Morris Plains resident said. “There was God-awful stuff. Some of these people were so injured they need anesthesia just to change their dressing.” (…)

Here’s an article from a Chinese site that speaks of 3000 amputations, some unnecessary, without any direct accusations.

This article from Tampa Bay News attempts to describe the agony of amputees who see their lives ruined, but does not answer the question of the necessity of such procedures. There are dozens of photos at this Florida site.

Here are two (of many) articles from the NYT on the plight of amputees and the transfer to American hospitals of as many victims as the hospitals can manage. The hospitals, according to one article, will be reimbursed by the government.

New York Times, February 3.

New York Times, January 25.

FRENCH-LANGUAGE ARTICLES

Now what about the French accusations? Le Post (article in French) has a summary with links to MSM articles. Figures on the number of amputations vary:

In all, over a thousand persons lost one or more limbs, according to Handicap International. Some speak of a “slaughter”. Arms, hands, fingers, legs… these amputations are increasing at a questionable rate.

Were they done too quickly?

All of the doctors agree that it is first a question of priorities.

In a NouvelObs (article in French) interview with Robert Beccari of MSF (Doctors Without Borders), the following came to light:

- What operations are being performed?

- We are treating crushed limbs, open fractures with infections and gangrene… It’s a race against time to save lives and avoid infection. We perform lots of amputations. In France, my job is to replant amputated limbs. The first day in Haiti was terrible. I tried to save all the limbs of the people I treated, but I quickly realized that it was a lost cause. To have to amputate the limbs of children of the same age as my own was very difficult. You have to be schizophrenic to be able to stand what I lived through there. The anaesthesia by ketamine was minimal. Fortunately, no patient was lost because of that.

- What kind of relations did you have with the other NGO’s?

- When I was in Iraq, I noticed that there was a war between members of different NGO’s. In Haiti, the situation was such that there was no room for that type of conflict. Everyone worked together.

An article in Romandie (a Swiss website – article in French) discusses the huge number of amputations:

(…) “Thousands of persons were amputated in this catastrophe. In some hospitals, we saw 30 to 100 amputations per day,” indicated Paul Garwood of the WHO, during a press conference in Geneva. (…)

All told, these mutilations “surpass anything we have seen elsewhere,” said Wendy Batson, director of the American branch of Handicap International. (…)

“We are in the process of establishing a data base of amputated persons in order to deliver the medical necessities, to help the wounds to heal. We are applying DynaCast prostheses that can last from four to six months”, added Mrs. Batson. “But considering the magnitude of the devastation of medical infrastructure, the more technically advanced procedures that would have allowed us to save limbs cannot be performed. In these cases, amputation is preferred to prevent death from infection.”

“WHO and other health organizations are now concentrating on the best way to bring post-operative care and rehabilitation of the patients…”, stressed Paul Garwood.

The most incriminating article I could find (other than a pro-Palestinian site that accuses us of the same kinds of unethical practices in Haiti as in Iraq, citing horrible photos posted at Facebook of American doctors jubilantly cutting off limbs) comes from Le Monde. Unfortunately the article was conveniently archived and I do not have access to it. Le Post provides a few excerpts from the article, focusing on interviews with doctors:

- Were amputations done too quickly?

- “Yes, a team of Texas doctors, who have already gone back, were the cause of the ravages and performed war medicine,” said one doctor from the Paris Fire Department. “Amputation is a way of saving lives only as a last resort, when a limb is crushed or when blood poisoning is a threat. But the Americans did it almost systematically, without taking the time to envisage other solutions, proud of this slaughter that gave them a chance to produce the most impressive numbers of patients…”

- Were amputations an easy solution?

Another doctor, according to Le Monde, had a talk with an American surgeon:

- “He said to me, ‘What’s the use? This country is too poor. There will be no real follow-up for your patients. It’s so much easier to amputate them. It’s clean, and definitive.’”

(Regarding the photos at Facebook – I do not use Facebook yet. I don’t know enough about it, although it seems to be a new Internet necessity. If you find something there that proves or disproves what has been said, let me know, but I am not signed up at Facebook. Is it possible to download photos from there?)

Finally, at VFR there is a letter that was forwarded from a man just back from Haiti. This eye-witness account incriminates the French, but primarily the French UN personnel, and French-speaking persons on the scene.

This is all I can do for now. As I indicated, everyone can do his own research, and ponder the issues raised. The main priority is that help be provided to the maximum number of victims. What the fate of the island will be, we don’t know. You might be interested in reading the comments from a Haitian reader who lives in Haiti, but was not in Port-au-Prince at the time. Though he incriminates the colonizers, he is most concerned about the need for Haitians to govern themselves.

The photo at the top shows Mexican rescuers pulling a woman alive from the rubble. Below, one of thousands of amputees.

Comments

There are no comments for this article just yet

Add your comments

Your details

Please enter your details

Name
Mail(will not be published)
Website

Your comments

 
LLIC Forum
One of the most poular places on the web for anyone affected by limb loss who wants to ask questions or offer advice.
register