Darkness in El Dorado - Archived Document
Anthropological Niche of Douglas W. Hume
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Internet Source: Recent news on Neel/Chagnon allegations - University of California, Santa Barbara, Anthropology Department
Source URL: http://www.anth.ucsb.edu/discus/html/messages/62/63.html?970367732


Referendum on Darkness in El Dorado & Danger to Immunization Campaign

(adopted November 2003)

The American Anthropological Association Recognizes the Dangers to Immunization Campaigns in the Allegations Associated with Darkness in El Dorado .

Whereas, the claims associated with Darkness in El Dorado have insinuated or alleged that the late James Neel and Napoleon Chagnon started or abetted a measles epidemic among the Yanomami and that they did so, in all probability, as part of an alleged malicious experiment in eugenics and by the use of inappropriate vaccines; and

Whereas these charges were distributed throughout the world by the media; and

Whereas, the charges against Neel and Chagnon have been investigated and discredited by the National Academy of Sciences, The American Society for Human Genetics, the International Genetic Epidemiological Society, the University of California, Santa Barbara, the University of Michigan, and a medical team of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, and that Neel's use of vaccine was safe and appropriate; and

Whereas, information collected in interviews by the AAA Task Force investigating the charges associated with Darkness in El Dorado shows that some Yanomami have accepted the idea that the vaccines administered by Neel and Chagnon were deadly, with unpredictable results for future immunization campaigns; and

Whereas, the Association through its El Dorado Task Force and Executive Board has stated that the "The key finding of the Task Force that dwarfs all others relates to the devastating health conditions of the Yanomami Indians" and accepts that the Neel-Chagnon vaccination effort "saved many lives"; and

Whereas, the Task Force Report failed to properly recognize that the charges that initiated their investigation are themselves dangerous, in that they undermine the public trust that is essential for the success of immunization campaigns and thereby for the health and safety of the Yanomami and all peoples,

Therefore Be it Resolved:

The American Anthropological Association repudiates the accusations or insinuations of starting or abetting a lethal measles epidemic by vaccination among the Yanomami made against the late James Neel and Napoleon Chagnon, and recognizes the harmfulness of false accusations regarding vaccine safety. The Committee on Ethics will include a discussion of the responsibilities of anthropologists with respect to these issues in their future deliberations and report back to the membership no later than November 2003.