150+ Canadians Day 18: Norman Bethune
Dr. Norman Bethune (d.1939), contributed to peace by his humanitarian medical work, particularly in conflict zones. #Canada150
He was a Canadian physician, medical innovator, and noted anti-fascist. Bethune came to international prominence first for his service as a frontline surgeon supporting the democratically elected Republican government during the Spanish Civil War. But it was his service with the Communist Eighth Route Army during the Second Sino-Japanese War that would earn him enduring acclaim. Dr. Bethune effectively brought modern medicine to rural China and often treated sick villagers as much as wounded soldiers. His selfless commitment made a profound impression on the Chinese people, especially CPC’s leader, Mao Zedong. Ironically, while Bethune was the man responsible for developing a mobile blood-transfusion service for frontline operations in the Spanish Civil War, he himself died of blood poisoning. A prominent Communist and veteran of the First World War, he wrote that wars were motivated by profits, not principles. Statues in his honor can be found in cities throughout China.
Bethune was concerned with the socioeconomic aspects of disease. As a concerned doctor in Montreal during the economic depression years of the 1930s, he frequently sought out the poor and gave them free medical care. He challenged his professional colleagues and agitated, without success, for the government to make radical reforms of medical care and health services in Canada. Bethune was an early proponent of socialized medicine and formed the Montreal Group for the Security of People’s Health.