What's behind the violence toward health workers? Conspiracy theories, urban legends and rumors have spread throughout the region that those pretending to offer medical help are really trying to harm or kill people.
Medical anthropologist Nancy Scheper-Hughes, who has studied the effects of rumors about organ theft, says that in many poor areas of the world — such as in the slums surrounding Brazil's major cities — residents sometimes avoid treatment in public hospitals out of fear that their organs may be taken. Myths and urban legends not only keep many from getting vaccines and medical help, but they can also decrease participation in organ donation programs (by those fearing that hospitals may try to kill them for their organs if they donate), Scheper-Hughes said.
The link between conspiracy theories and vaccinations appeared in America. Many people believe that childhood MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccinations are linked to childhood autism, and that the link was covered up by the government and medical establishment. The vaccine-autism link claim was originally made by Dr. Andrew Wakefield and published in a small 1998 case report. The British General Medical Council found he had acted unethically in his research, and his paper, which was championed by celebrities including Jenny McCarthy, was retracted. The vaccine-autism link has been completely discredited in follow-up studies and research.
Suspicion and fear of vaccination is nothing new; it's been around for centuries. There was strong resistance to the very first vaccine, created for smallpox in the late 1700s. When the public learned that the smallpox vaccine was created by taking pus from the wounds of infected cows and giving it to humans, they were disgusted by the idea; some even believed the vaccination could turn children into cows. In England, anti-vaccination groups formed in 1853, claiming that the smallpox vaccine was ineffective, dangerous and part of a government conspiracy.
Edited by Render, 11 January 2013 - 06:57 AM.