Signer Says New Weapons Are Creating Medical Problem

Ethan R. Signer, professor of biology at MIT, said yesterday that advanced technology of American weapons has created serious new medical problems in Indochina.

Signer recently returned from the International Conference on Medicine and the Indochina War, which convened Saturday and Sunday in Paris, to discuss medical difficulties caused by the war.

Weapons American forces are using in Indochina are "clearly designed not to kill, but to maim," Signer said. He added that there is "mounting evidence" that defoliants, used heavily in the war, came birth defects.

Use of these weapons creates problems for doctors treating war victims. Signer said, such as the difficulty in removing plastic pellets from people hit by anti-personnel bombs. He also accused the U.S. of using medical aid as a political weapon, frequently granted or denied to further American interests.

The conference noted in its final resolution that American corporations play a serious part in the development of these weapons. The South Vietnamese delegation to the conference presented evidence of a steady advancement in the effectiveness of bombs used by American aircraft in the past five years, Signer said.

About 200 doctors and scientists from 20 nations attended the conference. Many of these have made serious efforts to improve health and medical services in Indochina in the past few years, Signer said, and have achieved an "admirable success" despite a lack of resources. "A systematic, planned attempt by the U.S. to bomb hospitals" has severely impeded those efforts, he added.

The MIT Peace Coalition, which sent Signer to the conference, plans to initiate fund-raising activities for medical aid to Indochina. Signer said reports by delegations from Southeast Asian nations convinced him that Americans are making only "very modest" contributions of medical aid to that area.