Doctors and terror

One of the things that I found most disturbing about the recent failed bombing attempts in London and the car attack in Glasgow, aside from the terrorism and potential for huge losses of life, is this:

GLASGOW, Scotland (AP) — British police focused Tuesday on at least four physicians with roots outside Britain – including a doctor seized at an Australian airport with a one-way ticket – in the investigation into failed car bombings in Glasgow and London.

At least four of the eight suspects were identified as doctors from Iraq, Jordan and India. One of the doctors from India, 27-year-old Muhammad Haneef, was arrested late Monday at the international airport in the Australian city of Brisbane, where he was trying to board a flight with a one-way ticket late Monday, the Australian attorney general said.

Prime Minister John Howard said a second doctor was being interviewed in Australia, and British media reported that at least two of the others detained were trainee physicians.

Mark Shone, a spokesman for Halton Hospital in England, said Haneef worked there in 2005 as a temporary doctor, coming in when needed. He also confirmed a 26-year-old man arrested in Liverpool late Saturday – also Indian – practiced at the hospital but he would not provide the man’s name or further details.

Amid increased security at British airports, train stations and on city streets, a bomb disposal team carried out a controlled explosion on a suspicious car parked outside a mosque in Glasgow.


That’s right. A large percentage of the terror suspects arrested thus far are physicians or physician trainees. It bothered me enough that Ayman Muhammad Rabaie al-Zawahiri is a high-ranking member of al Qaeda. Radio reports that I heard early this morning were claiming that as many as six of the suspects were physicians or physician trainees. Attention is now focusing on the large number of physicians who have of late immigrated to the U.K., many of whom work in the National Health Service from Muslim countries.

It just boggles my mind that physicians can become terrorists like this. It is antithetical to the very core of our purpose in becoming physicians: To relieve suffering and to help the sick and wounded. We’re not supposed to produce more sick and wounded. A more disturbing implication than how those sworn to heal could so easily be drawn into planning and executing the mass killings of innocent human beings is the possibility that some of these physicians, rather than being involved in bombing plots, might turn their skills to terror, either through chemical or biologic attacks.

Make no mistake about it, any physician who leaves the path of healing and becomes an accomplice to mass murder and terrorism has committed an even worse betrayal than the run-of-the-mill terrorist because he or she will have abandoned everything that the profession stands for, even if they do not use their special skills in the attack itself. It just goes to show how powerful ideology and religion can be, corrupting even those who should normally be very resistant to killing in the name of God.

ADDENDUM: More on “Britain’s medical terrorists.”