Vienna mayor promises redress for malaria victims

AP News
Posted: Feb 07, 2012 2:26 PM
Vienna mayor promises redress for malaria victims

Vienna's mayor on Tuesday promised compensation for anyone injected with the parasite that causes malaria after two former foster home children claimed to have been given such shots in the 1960s.

Mayor Michael Haeupl told reporters it is unclear if anyone underwent such treatment _ and if so whether they were the victims of a crime or the targets of "outmoded medical treatment."

But in a sign that he was taking the allegations of the two former foster home wards seriously, he said he has asked experts to report how anyone affected could be compensated.

Such injections were an accepted method in the early 20th century to treat syphilis, with the resulting high fever killing the bacteria that caused the disease, while the malaria was kept under control by doses of Quinine. Austrian physician Julius Wagner-Jauregg received the 1927 Nobel prize for Medicine for developing this treatment.

But there also were experiments with treating psychological disorders through shots of the malaria pathogen.

Bernd Kuefferle, a psychiatrist at the Vienna University Clinic during the 1960s, told the Austria Press Agency that some psychiatric patients were forced to undergo such "fever cures" to keep malaria pathogens alive for possible syphilis treatment.

The two malaria claims are already under investigation by two Vienna hospitals. They began looking for relevant medical records after the two men told state broadcaster ORF on Monday that they were injected with the malaria pathogen while living at a Vienna foster home in the 1960s.

One said he was given the shot at the Vienna University Clinic after running away from the home at age 16 and being diagnosed with psychological problems.

Neither of the men were identified in keeping with Austrian privacy laws.

"They took blood from someone else and injected it into a muscle," the first man told ORF radio. "A doctor told me they were doing experiments."