Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Enduring beliefs about effects of gassing in war: qualitative study

BMJ 2007;335:1313-1315 (22 December), doi:10.1136/bmj.39420.533461.25
Enduring beliefs about effects of gassing in war: qualitative study
Edgar Jones, professor1, Ian Palmer, professor2, Simon Wessely, professor1
1 Institute of Psychiatry and King’s Centre for Military Health Research, Weston Education Centre, London SE5 9RJ, 2 Medical Assessment Programme, St Thomas’ Hospital, London SE1 7EH
Correspondence to: E Jones
Objectives To discover the content of enduring beliefs held by first world war veterans about their experience of having been gassed.
Design Collection and thematic analysis of written and reported statements from a sample of veterans about gassing.
Subjects 103 veterans with a war pension.
Results Twelve themes were identified, which were related to individual statements. The systemic nature of chemical weapons played a key part in ideas and beliefs about their capacity to cause enduring harm to health. Unlike shrapnel or a bullet that had a defined physical presence, gas had unseen effects within the body, while its capacity to cause damage was apparent from vesicant effects to skin and eyes. The terror inspired by chemical weapons also served to maintain memories of being gassed, while anti-gas measures were themselves disconcerting or a source of discomfort.
Conclusions Chronic symptoms and work difficulties maintained beliefs about the potency of chemical weapons. In the period after the war, gas continued to inspire popular revulsion and was associated with a sense of unfairness.

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