The Doctor and the Department of Defense.
Imagine yourself in the young American DoD doctor’s position. What would you do? What are the social and contextual influences on how you think about this situation? Are the social/contextual influences equally relevant?
It’s 1957, and you are a young American doctor working for the Department of Defense in the Marshall Islands. The Marshall Islands are being used by the United States as a nuclear warhead testing site. A friend of yours, Adam Johnson, is a doctor with a volunteer medical team who treats the Marshall Island natives, who were relocated to an island downwind from the testing sites. Adam mentions to you that over the last ten years, he has noticed an increase in particular kinds of cancers. You suspect that this cancer might be related to radioactive fallout, traveling with the prevailing wind patterns, from the nuclear weapons testing that your group has been engaged in on the islands. What would you do in this case?
Further Background: Between 1945 and 1958, the United States conducted 67 atmospheric tests of nuclear weapon designs on the Bikini and Enewetak atolls of the Marshall Islands. After this testing ended in the late 1950s, residents who had been relocated from these atolls began asking to return to their home islands. But going home proved to be not so simple. At Enewetak, for instance, islands continued to be used for other defense programs through the 1960s and 1970s. Finally, in 1978, an extensive radiological survey was conducted of the northern Marshall Islands, including those in the Bikini and Enewetak atolls. An aerial survey determined the external gamma exposure rate. Samples of soil, food crops, animals, well water, seawater, fish, and more were collected to evaluate the radionuclide concentrations in the atoll environment. About the same time, the U.S. launched a massive cleanup and rehabilitation program on the Enewetak Atoll, scraping off about 76,400 cubic meters of surface soil from 6 islands and sealing it off in a crater on the atoll’s Runit Island.
- 3 months