January, 2017 has been arguably one of the most chaotic months in the democratic history of the United States, with many Americans wondering if the country has devolved into an autocracy or dictatorship. Anyone trying to keep up with the news has probably become exhausted. There are many issues that have begun to dominate the science news, including a Scientists’ March on Washington. But that’s the not the subject for this month’s blog. Instead, it is the Executive Order issued January 27th, which is the travel ban on 7 Muslim-majority countries (the word “ban” is the President’s words), which affected even permanent residents of the U.S. (something that is currently being potentially corrected or evaluated on a “case by case” basis), as well as people who have dual citizenship in one of the banned countries as well as another country, such as Canada. The ban has had immediate and dire ramifications for the scientific and medical communities. Several universities have issued statements, and in a rare instance, The Endocrine Society has now weighed in. Here is the official Press Release:
In individual letters sent to members, it made these statements (bold added for emphasis):
“We are currently working with the broader research and medical communities on supporting legal efforts to overturn the order… [And] we have already heard concerns from colleagues in targeted countries about missing ENDO this spring. We also recognize that as a result of this order there are physicians and scientists training in the US who are now unsure of their status and patients from targeted countries blocked from participating in studies.”
There are clearly research and clinical ethical consequences to such orders from President Trump that were likely not considered, which may violate basic bioethics principles.
But the travel ban has had an unprecedented detrimental global impact on the U.S.’ relationships with other countries. Notwithstanding harsh criticism from various European countries, Britain, as well as Iran and Iraq, the President of the European Union made the statement today that the U.S. is now being considered a global threat to Europe on par with Russia. See: http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/31/politics/european-union-trump/
When the Acting Attorney General of the United States, Sally Yates, declared that she could not defend this travel ban in court because she was not convinced it was lawful, she was demonstrating moral courage. (See: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/01/30/us/document-Letter-From-Sally-Yates.html?_r=0). As is sometimes the case when speaking out against something that compromises professional and moral integrity, she was fired and called a “betrayer” by the White House. (See: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/30/us/politics/trump-immigration-ban-memo.html). Such an action recalled the “Saturday Night Massacre” of the Watergate era when former President Nixon fired then Attorney General, Elliot Richardson and his Deputy Attorney General for refusing to fire Archibald Cox, the Independent Prosecutor investigating the President.
All Endocrine Society Members should applaud the Endocrine Society’s moral courage in speaking out on this ethically and legally problematic ban. Future Society meetings may be best held in Canada, which has spoken out against the ban and can offer a safe travel situation for all Endocrine Society Members. (See: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/us-politics/trumps-travel-ban-on-citizens-from-muslim-majority-countries-causes-anger-chaos-in-us-andabroad/article33818462/).
The history of science and medicine is filled with refugee scientists’ accomplishments. What would have happened had we banned Albert Einstein from entering the U.S. in 1933, prior to the infamous and unfortunate banning of Jewish refugees who tried to flee later (See: https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/01/jewish-refugees-in-the-us/514742/)? Who knows what scientific discovery was on the ship we turned away, and how much science was lost to the ashes of the Holocaust? It is all the more ironic that this new Executive Order was signed on Holocaust Memorial Day. It’s worth noting that the influx of Jewish refugees who did get into the United States led to a 31% increase in patents. (See: http://news.stanford.edu/news/2014/august/german-jewish-inventors-081114.html)
Academics around the country have initiated petitions about this travel ban, such as this one: https://notoimmigrationban.com . We do not yet know the complete toll this ban has had on the academic medical community or patients. Stay tuned.