Friday, August 14, 2009

Norman Bethune

Watching Che I couldn't help but think of the great Canadian doctor/revolutionary, Dr. Norman Bethune.

Henry Norman Bethune (March 3, 1890November 12, 1939; Chinese name: ; pinyin: Bái Qiúēn) was a Canadian physician and medical innovator. Bethune is best known for his service in war time medical units during the Spanish Civil War and with the Chinese Communists during the Second Sino-Japanese War. He developed the first mobile blood-transfusion service in Spain in 1936.[1]

Bethune became increasingly disillusioned with surgical treatment and concerned with the socioeconomic aspects of disease. As a concerned doctor in Montreal during the economic depression years of the thirties, Bethune frequently sought out the poor and gave them free medical care. He challenged his professional colleagues and agitated, without success, for the government to make radical reforms of medical care and health services in Canada.

Bethune was an early proponent of socialized medicine and formed the Montreal Group for the Security of People's Health. In 1935 Bethune travelled to the Soviet Union to observe first hand their system of health care. During this year he became a committed communist and joined the Communist Party of Canada.

The next year, 1936, the Spanish Civil War broke out. Bethune accepted an invitation from the Committee to Aid Spanish Democracy to head the Canadian Medical Unit in Madrid. He joined the Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion which was composed of Canadian communists and other leftists and set off for Madrid on November 3, 1936.

n 1938 Bethune travelled to Yan'an in the Shanbei region of Shaanxi province in China. There he joined the Chinese Communists led by Mao Zedong in their struggle against the Japanese in the Second Sino-Japanese War. The Lebanese-American doctor George Hatem who had come to Yan'an earlier was instrumental in helping Bethune get started at his task of organizing medical services for the front and the region.[7]

In China, Bethune performed emergency battlefield surgical operations on war casualties and established training for doctors, nurses and orderlies.[8] He did not distinguish between casualties, treating wounded Japanese prisoners as well as Chinese.[9][10]

As a Canadian and a physician I can only hope that Canadian film makers and perhaps the Chinese and Spanish will honor this extraordinary man with a great film starring Donald and Keifer Sutherland as old and young Bethune.


kursk said...

Late to the party, but here goes.

Norman Bethune was an avowed Communist who supported an ideology that has murdered in the region of 180,000,000 million people since 1917.It continues today in China

Norman Bethune , his statutes and accolades should be consigned to the dustbin of history, much like the ideology he supported.

'Hero' my ass.For every one person he saved through transfusion (to go on and murder for the revolution), thousands more lay in unmarked graves courtesy of foolish enablers and useful idiots like Bethune.

Could we for once be honest in this debate and really call Bethune out for what he was? A dupe of murderous dictators and diseased ideology?

haykind said...

Thank you very much for your knowledgeable response. I confess I share your concerns for the horrors of communist dictatorships. A Russian emigre just told me today that Hitler learned many of his ideas from Lennin.
That said I remain partial to Bethune as a doctor. As one myself we tend to an oath that would have us heal the good and the bad.
How many times I've thought I'd like to use my medical training as a sword and deny it to the government of the day that was more invested in euthanasia and abortion than in healing.
And yes I prefer personally Albert Schwietzer.