Additional Book Information

Series: New York Review Books
ISBN: 9781590171400
Pages: 236
Publication Date: June 6, 2006

Trust is Not EnoughBringing Human Rights to Medicine

by David J. Rothman and Sheila M. Rothman



While our office is shut down due to COVID-19, we encourage you to purchase this title through in support of independent bookstores. Click here to order.

During the last half-century many international declarations have proclaimed health care to be a fundamental human right. But high aspirations repeatedly confront harsh realities, in societies both rich and poor. To illustrate this disparity, David and Sheila Rothman bring together stories from their investigations around the world into medical abuses. A central theme runs through their accounts: how the principles of human rights, including bodily integrity, informed consent, and freedom from coercion, should guide physicians and governments in dealing with patients and health care.

Over the past two decades, the Rothmans have visited post-Ceausescu Romania, where they uncovered the primitive medical practices that together with state oppression caused hundreds of orphans to develop AIDS. They have monitored the exploitative international traffic in organs in India, China, Singapore, and the Philippines. One of the most controversial questions they explore is experimentation on human beings, whether in studies of the effects of radioactive iron on pregnant women in 1940s Tennessee or in contemporary trials of AIDS drugs in the third world. And they examine a number of rulings by South Africa's Constitutional Court that have suggested practical ways of reconciling the right to health care with its society's limited resources.

Whether discussing the training of young doctors in the US, the effects of segregation on medicine in Zimbabwe, or proposals for rationing health care, David and Sheila Rothman conclude that an ethical and professional concern for observing medicine's oldest commandment—do no harm—must be joined with a profound commitment to protecting human rights.David J. Rothman and Sheila M. Rothman


Above all, Trust is Not Enough is a cogently argued indictment of how First World policies in medicine and research continue to have a negative impact on the lives of people in the Third World. The authors expose exploitive practices by Western medical researchers conducting tests in the Third World, as well as the burgeoning trade in commercial organ transplants.
The Gazette (Montreal)

The Rothman's discussion of American philosophical perspectives on health care rationing ought to be of interest to all. It is deftly followed by a previously unpublished essay on the right to health care in South Africa, which should be required reading.
The New England Journal of Medicine

Passionate and authoritative, the Rothmans offer readers an eyeopening tour of the darker sides of healthcare practice and policy.
Library Journal Reviews