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December 6, 1995

Military Physicians Lend Healing Hands to Haiti

JAMA. 1995;274(21):1664-1666. doi:10.1001/jama.1995.03530210018006

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THE MISSION of US Army medical personnel in Haiti is to protect the health and readiness of United States and other United Nations (UN) armed forces who have occupied this country to restore the democratic government. Although the mandate of the UN mission does not include rehabilitating the country's devastated infrastructure, it has been impossible for US medical operations to ignore the medical needs of Haitians, the likes of which few American physicians have ever seen.

In his 1963 novel Cat's Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut describes "scenes of hideous want" on "San Lorenzo," his imaginary depiction of an island very like Haiti. One such scene involved a pile of bodies outside the island's famous charity hospital, "House of Hope and Mercy," which grew so wide and deep that a bulldozer stalled trying to shove them into a mass grave. That was fiction.

This is fact: At the University Hospital in Port-au-Prince,

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