This article discusses the impact that politics and social beliefs have on the humanitarian goals of medicine, using the American occupation of Haiti (1915-1934) as a backdrop. First, the article explains how the United States intervened in Haiti in order to maintain its political hegemony in the Caribbean, develop Haiti as a new market for American investors, and civilize the supposedly "backwards" Haiti. Previously, historians have recognized the important role that medicine played during the occupation, but this article highlights how U.S. political, economic, and cultural motives distorted the practice of medicine in Haiti. For instance, from 1915-1922, the Americans established martial law and sought to eliminate resistance against the U.S. presence in Haiti. American brutality in these early years led to the selective practice of medicine, as the Americans only treated Haitian patients when it served to protect the health of U.S. Marines or pacify the Haitian populace. Thus, under the military, medicine's goals morphed from patient health and well-being to order and control via health. Following the reorganization of the occupation, medicine sought to justify the continuation of U.S. control over Haiti. The widespread treatment of Haitian diseases served as wonderful propaganda for the Americans, but in reality, the aims of medicine were to "confer the benefits of civilization" upon Haiti and revitalize the nation's economy via a healthy workforce. Thus, this article demonstrates the susceptibility of medicine to political and social aims.
Scherr, Cooper, "Medicine Infected by Politics: The American Occupation of Haiti, 1915-1934" (2019). Library Undergraduate Research Award. 5.