Col. Kanitjan Alibekov (Ken Alibek, M.D.):



Part 4:

Society as Patient:  The Doctor's Role  in the Future of Humankind



• Introduction

• Konner: The Dawn of Wonder

• Saletan: Homo Respect-Us

• Alibek: Biohazard


Week Links (get it?):


Unit One: First Do No Harm (Miss Evers' Boys--reviewed in web-chat)

Unit Two: The Patient as Main Character

Unit Three: Self-Portrait's of the Physician's Life (content not yet uploaded)

Unit Four: Society as Patient




   Dr. Alibek, a Soviet scientist and deputy director of Biopreparat, was second-in-command of the largest biowarfare program in history. He defected to the United States, and is currently a consultant to the government in its attempts to develop a bioweapon defense. Like many others in the field, he doesn't believe the prognosis is very good.

   I've scanned in several photos from the book, which can be viewed by clicking on the thumbnail images below.  The article itself can be read by clicking on the image of the book cover.  It's an Adobe Acrobat (PDF) file, which most computers are capable of reading. If you have any trouble viewing the file, please e-mail me and I'll send you a text file.  Both the PDF file and the text file have occasional errors or typos, because scanning and OCR (optical character recognition) isn't perfect and I don't have the time to type a quarter of a book into the computer!  So please be patient and try to overlook the occasional glitches.  It's the only way I could manage to include the material without taking up huge amounts of space.

   As you read Dr. Alibek's story, please pay particular attention to way he was convinced to become a bioweapons researcher--to turn away from the healing side of medicine and instead apply his training to the development of incredibly virulent and deadly diseases.  Is there a parallel to the "slippery slope" we saw in "Miss Evers' Boys"?  Was Dr. Alibek gradually convinced to "go up that hill," as Miss Evers put it?

   Much of Dr. Alibek's decision was based on the assertion that the United States had violated the bioweapons treaty.  If the United States (or another threatening foreign power) had really been developing bioweapons, would Dr. Alibek have been justified in his decision?  Are there circumstances when it is reasonable to turn away from the healing arts and use your medical knowledge as a weapon?

   Moving forward in time to the present day, to the Iraq war and the "War on Terror," do you believe that the physicians and medical workers (particularly psychiatrists) who aided in the interrogations of prisoners at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere are justified in applying their talents and abilities to the "breaking down" of prisoners' defenses? Is propoganda a reasonable use of medical training? How about the physicians and medics who looked the other way, ignoring or covering up evidence of abuse--were they justified in their actions?

   Perhaps it all boils down to the ultimate question: for a physician employed by a government or military force, where does his or her responsibility lie?




*Click image to view excerpt*



















Dr. Alibek

A family photo from his days working with tularemia.

Soviet-era bioweapons facilities
The bomb-testing facilities at Stepnogorsk

An inside look  at some of the bioweapon-makers' equipment