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JAMA. 1990 Oct 24-31;264(16):2097-102.

Apartheid medicine. Health and human rights in South Africa.

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Committee on Health and Human Rights, Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, Washington, DC 20005.


Human rights and health care under apartheid in South Africa were studied. Human rights violations, such as detention without charge or trial, assault and torture in police custody, and restriction orders, have had devastating effects on the health of persons experiencing them. These violations have occurred in the context of a deliberate policy of discriminatory health care favoring the white minority over the black majority. South Africa's medical societies have had mixed responses to the health problems raised by human rights violations and inequities in the health care system. The amelioration of health care for all and prevention of human rights violations depend on ending apartheid and discrimination and greater government attention to these problems.


In April 1989, the authors visited South Africa under the auspices of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine, the American Psychiatric Association, and the American Public Health Association. The purpose of the trip was "to assess the effects of apartheid on the delivery of health care and to examine the roles South African health professionals have played in helping and hindering the promotion of health care rights." This summary of the group's full report covers: 1) health care under apartheid; 2) medical education; 3) human rights violations and health professionals (including torture, hunger strikes and restrictions, harrassment of health professionals, the physician and the prison system, and the impact of detention on children); 4) the response of the medical community to human rights violations; and 5) concluding observations.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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