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Response to Open Peer Commentaries on “Healing Without Waging War: Beyond Military Metaphors in Medicine and HIV Cure Research”

bioethics-2016-decJing-Bao Nie, Stuart Rennie, Adam Gilbertson, Joseph D. Tucker.

American Journal of Bioethics.

In early August 2016, when we began to write this response to the peer commentaries at the invitation of the AJOB editorial team, a new article appeared in The New York Time’s series “Cell Wars” which explores innovative immunotherapy to “combat” cancer. The new article entitled “Setting the Body’s ‘Serial Killer’s Loose on Cancer” reports a “daring” new treatment “after a long, intense pursuit”. For the pioneering researchers and the reporting journalist, the patient’s T-cells are considered the “soldiers” of the immune system. Genetically engineered, multiplied in the laboratory, and injected back into the patient’s blood in millions or billions, the cells are charged like “a vast army of tumor assassins” to “destroy” cancer cells. In the spirit of heroic warriors, one researcher expressed wishes to “conquer” cancer before his death to “end this Holocaust.” Throughout the article (around 5,000 words in length), “kill” or “killer” is used 16 times, “destroy” seven times, and “fight” seven times (one of researchers’ fights was not with cancer but over credit). Words such as “healing” or “care” do not appear at all.

Nie, J.-B., Rennie, S., Gilbertson, A., & Tucker, J. D. (2016). No more militaristic and violent language in medicine: Response to open peer commentaries on “Healing without waging war: Beyond military metaphors in medicine and hiv cure research.” American Journal of Bioethics, 16(12), W9–W11.