Medical racism?: French doctors discuss testing new COVID-19 treatment on Africans first
April 3, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – Will a new treatment for COVID-19 be tested on populations in sub-Saharan Africa?
A brief segment on the French TV Station LCI has sparked indignation after two doctors cynically discussed the possibility of medical trials on Africans who will be more exposed to the COVID-19.
The tuberculosis vaccine (BCG) is being touted as a possible treatment for the Chinese coronavirus. While the use of hydroxychloroquine, a cheap anti-malaria molecule, is giving good results when used at an early stage of the infection in combination with azithromycin, the staging of trials with BCG could prevent contaminated participants from accessing a treatment that appears to be preventing lung infections occurring in up to 20 percent of people who have symptoms associated with the virus.
Pr. Jean-Paul Mira, head of the resuscitation unit of the Paris Cochin hospital, and Camille Locht, director of research at the INSERM (National Institute for Health and Medical Research), were discussing the issue of coordinated international trials with the same types of vaccine and placebos on a live virtual set when Mira said:
“If I can be provocative, shouldn’t we be making this study in Africa, where they have no masks, no treatment, no resuscitation, somewhat like was done in experimental treatment for AIDS where you try things with prostitutes because they are highly exposed and do not protect themselves? What do you think?”
“You are right, and I should say that we are considering a parallel study in Africa in order to use that kind of approach with the BCG and a placebo.”
At the time of writing, the segment had already been watched 3.8 million times on Twitter, sparking comments such as “sickening,” “medical racism,” “horrific.”
Pro-life and pro-family African activist Obianuju Ekeocha tweeted:
“As an African woman, this brought tears to my eyes. From these French doctors, to western ideologue elites, to stakeholders at international organizations… they see Africans as lab rats. #Neocolonialism.”
As an African woman, this brought tears to my eyes.— Obianuju Ekeocha (@obianuju) April 2, 2020
From these French doctors, to western ideologue elites, to stakeholders at international organizations...
they see Africans as lab rats.#Neocolonialism https://t.co/rlTbLK2cXw
Some comments suggested that the trials would at least give some of those who are most at risk a chance and that it would help “curb the virus.”
However, medical trials during a potentially lethal epidemic, with randomized tests and deliberate offering of placebos, would indeed consider the African population not as persons to be cared for and if possible healed but as useful elements to be exploited in view of medical progress.
But cynicism is not only for the Africans. In France, where the hydroxychloroquine-azythromycine protocol of Pr. Didier Raoult, head of the special infectious disease unit of Marseille’s La Timone hospital is obtaining a significantly lower death toll than in the rest of France, as well as lowering the contagious phase from about 20 to six days, scientific trials have also been set up at the behest of the authorities, including expensive anti-AIDS medication, control groups, and administration of placebos to part of the patients.
Raoult has called this testing “immoral” in the current situation. Patients are involved who are at risk of dying and who might be saved by the simple treatment that appears to be working well.
The directorate of the public hospitals in Paris issued a statement reacting to the flood of negative comments that followed publication of the segment of Mira and Locht’s conversation.
“The AP-HP board was shocked by the remarks made by Pr. Jean-Paul Mira on LCI on April 1, 2020, remarks which are not like him. Martin Hirsch, director general of AP-HP, called Pr. Mira who apologized and expressed deep regret. He acknowledges that his remarks, which were awkward to say the least and could be interpreted in a pejorative way towards African countries, could be hurtful. That was neither his intention nor the substance of his thinking,” said the statement.
It quoted Mira as saying, “I want to apologize, to ask those who have been hurt, shocked, insulted by what I said awkwardly on LCI this week, to apologize sincerely, because it does not reflect who I am, what I have been doing on a daily basis, for 30 years now.”
Media sources such as The Huffington Post called the representation of the two doctors’ conversation “fake news.”
The INSERM published a communiqué stating that the video published on Twitter had been truncated and quoted out of context, because later in the conversation it was noted that BCG trials were being organized in European countries and in Australia, targeting caregivers who are most exposed to the coronavirus. “Africa should not be forgotten or excluded from research because the pandemic is global,” it said, with the hashtag #FakeNews.
But Mira’s words speak for themselves, and his apology is further proof that they were at least insensitive, and in truth quite revealing of part of the medical community’s deafness to the existence of protocols that are increasingly showing their efficiency on the ground.