Most people will complain indignantly of government corruption and foreign atrocities and end by shaking their heads in discouragement. Not so with D. Rutledge Taylor. Known to his patients as “Dr. Rutledge,” this California physician learned that malaria claims the lives of one million people every year in poor countries because governments prevent them from using the only known antidote, and he took a different tack. Hoping to right the wrong, he hired a video production crew and traveled around the world to chronicle the devastation of a decades-old bureaucratic ban on the insecticide DDT.
Dr. Rutledge specializes in preventive medicine and was researching ways to ward off West Nile Virus in 2004, the year cases surged in California. He discovered that malaria, another infectious disease transmitted by insects, is far more prevalent in today’s world than any other communicable illness. In search for a solution, he asked some colleagues, and what he found horrified him.
“DDT is a preventive measure. It just turns malaria on and off like a switch,” said Dr. Art Robinson, biochemist and president of the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine. “The number of children slaughtered by the ban of DDT is greater than any other genocide in world history.” Robinson challenged Dr. Rutledge to go find out for himself, inspiring what became a five-year project including a journey through Africa, India, and Indonesia to witness the carnage firsthand, and several trips to Washington, D.C., to answer the question, “Why did they ban that chemical?”
A compelling and controversial documentary, 3 Billion and Counting is named for the number of malaria victims worldwide throughout history. It exposes genocide in poor countries committed by bureaucrats in wealthy nations who kill with the “stroke of a pen.”
But even more compelling than the numbers of dead are the faces of individual children in hospitals of sub-Saharan Africa and Indonesia suffering intensely as the disease escalates from uncontrollable shaking, extreme muscle pain, and high fever to anemia, cerebral meningitis, or renal failure. Those who survive are often left with chronic pain and fatigue and sometimes permanent brain damage.
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3 Billion and Counting, Produced/written/directed by D. Rutledge Taylor, Los Angeles, California: Frogbite Productions, 102 minutes (produced in 2010).