Professional ethics, medical experts and famine in Soviet Ukraine
Presenter: Oksana Vynnyk (University of Alberta)
Discussant: Golfo Alexopoulos (University of South Florida)
The construction of a new Soviet society assumed the transformation of all spheres of life, including the health care system. Soviet authorities introduced the principle that basic health care would be free and accessible to the Soviet working class. Since the older and highly inadequate imperial public health system had been shattered by years of war and revolution, the Soviets had much work to do to fulfill their promise. This work would soon be further complicated by the new political goals of accelerated industrialization and forced collectivization of the countryside. My paper examines the famine of 1932-33 in Soviet Ukraine in the context of public health policy, with particular attention to the role of professional ethics, medical practices, and medical professionals. Medicine and public health in Soviet Ukraine in this period were defined by complex relationships between the state, “old” and “new” Soviet identities for medical professionals, a volatile Soviet regime, communist ideology, and powerful concepts of party allegiance. These relationships would shape medical ethics and practice at personal and institutional levels and politicize the question of healthfulness for Soviet citizens.