Science, Policy, Activism, and War: Defining the Health of Gulf War Veterans

Science, Technology, and Human Values 27 (2):171-205 (2002)
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Many servicemen and women began suffering from a variety of symptoms and illnesses soon after the 1991 Gulf War. Some veterans believe that their illnesses are related to toxic exposures during their service, though scientific research has been largely unable to demonstrate any link. Disputes over the definition, etiology, and treatment of Gulf War-related illnesses continue. The authors examine the roles of science, policy, and veteran activism in developing an understanding of GWRIs. They argue that the government’s stress-based explanation of GWRIs and its insistence on a scientific link between service in the gulf and veteran illnesses forced veterans to shift from pleas for care, treatment, and compensation on moral grounds to engagement in the scientific process and debates over the interpretation of scientific findings. The authors compare the experiences of veterans to those of breast cancer activists to explain the stages of illness contestation in general.



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Phil Brown
University of Manchester