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Article
August 4, 1989

The Use of Chemical WeaponsConducting an Investigation Using Survey Epidemiology

Author Affiliations

From Channing Laboratory, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Mass (Dr Hu); the Biomedical Ethics Advisory Committee, US Congress, Washington, DC (Dr Cook-Deegan); and Department Emergency Services, Northwest General Hospital, Detroit, Mich (Dr Shukri). The opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not represent the opinions of the supporting institutions.

From Channing Laboratory, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Mass (Dr Hu); the Biomedical Ethics Advisory Committee, US Congress, Washington, DC (Dr Cook-Deegan); and Department Emergency Services, Northwest General Hospital, Detroit, Mich (Dr Shukri). The opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not represent the opinions of the supporting institutions.

JAMA. 1989;262(5):640-643. doi:10.1001/jama.1989.03430050056026
Abstract

The use of chemical weapons in conflict represents a breach of international law as well as a grave violation of human rights. Investigating allegations of their use often is difficult. A basic tool is the survey interview. Experience has shown that a rigorous epidemiologic approach should be taken. A primary emphasis should be designing the study so that consistency of responses can be analyzed to judge the validity of the testimony. Only when the testimony can withstand this scrutiny is it possible to surmise the possible identity of agents employed. Securing samples of the putative agent is of obvious importance. Two recent investigations are discussed herein, one conducted by US Army medical researchers on allegations of chemical weapons use against the Hmong in Laos and another mounted by us on allegations of poison-gas attack against the Iraqi Kurds.

(JAMA. 1989;262:640-643)

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