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ACP-ASIM Pressroom

CONTACT: Susan C. Anderson, 215-351-2653 or 800-523-1546, ext. 2653

ACP-ASIM: Minimize Effects Of Political Embargoes On Health

Secretary of State: U.S. is Working to Improve Embargoes' Effectiveness

PHILADELPHIA—(January 18, 2000) A new position paper from the American College of Physicians-American Society of Internal Medicine (ACP-ASIM) offers four principles to minimize the negative health impact of political embargoes. In the paper, "The Health Effects of Economic Sanctions and Embargoes: The Role of Health Professionals," ACP-ASIM says that:

  • embargoes should exclude humanitarian goods, such as food- and health-related material or medical supplies;
  • qualified unbiased agencies should be empowered to address humanitarian appeals for exemptions;
  • medical and health-related supplies and services should be provided to offset increased illness caused by sanctions; and
  • delivery of medical and health related materials must be monitored.

The ACP-ASIM position paper appears in the January 18, 2000, issue of Annals of Internal Medicine, along with a physician's perspective on the health impact of the U.S. embargo against Cuba and with an editorial by Madeleine K. Albright, U.S. Secretary of State.

The physician, who visited Cuba in 1983 and in 1999, says that the Cuban health system, with universal access to free care and a strong emphasis on public health, has "deteriorated during the years of progressive U.S. sanctions."

Secretary Albright, in a response to the College's position and the perspective piece on Cuba, says sanctions are a tool—short of war or more extreme measures—"to induce a government violating international norms" to change. She discusses specific sanctions, including the U. N. Security Council sanctions against Iraq and the U.S. unilateral sanctions against Cuba. She says sanctions can be a "blunt instrument" and that the U.S. supports the goal of minimizing the health effects of economic sanctions and seeks a partnership with the public health community to make further progress toward this goal.

The ACP-ASIM position paper was developed by the ACP-ASIM Committee on Ethics and Human Rights. Whitney W. Addington, MD, ACP-ASIM president, notes that "ACP-ASIM understands that political embargoes and economic sanctions may be justified as tools of foreign policy. However, the College believes that political embargoes should be applied cautiously and selectively, and, whenever possible, should allow for civilian access to humanitarian goods such as medicine and medical care."

ACP-ASIM is the nation's largest medical specialty organization, with a membership of 115,000 internal medicine physicians and medical students. Internists provide the majority of health care to adults in America. ACP-ASIM publishes the peer-reviewed journal Annals of Internal Medicine twice monthly.
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NOTE TO EDITOR: The ACP-ASIM position paper and the editorial by Secretary of State Albright will be available on the ACP-ASIM Web site (www.acponline.org) on January 18. For embargoed advance copies, please call 215-351-2656.

For interviews with Whitney Addington, MD, ACP-ASIM president, or a representative of the Department of State, please call Susan Anderson, 1-800-523-1546, ext. 2653 or 215-351-2653.

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