Norman Bethune (1890-1939)
The Canadian physician, medical innovator, and noted communist came to international prominence first for his service as a frontline surgeon supporting the democratically elected Republican government during the Spanish Civil War. But it was his service with the Communist Eighth Route Army during the Second Sino-Japanese War that would earn him enduring acclaim. Dr. Bethune effectively brought modern medicine to rural China and often treated sick villagers as much as wounded soldiers. His selfless commitment made a profound impression on the Chinese people. Statues in his honor can be found in cities throughout China.
Bethune had thoughts of medicinal disciplines and states: Medicine, as we are practising it, is a luxury trade. We are selling bread at the price of jewels . ... Let us take the profit, the private economic profit, out of medicine, and purify our profession of rapacious individualism ... Let us say to the people not ' How much have you got?' but ' How best can we serve you?'
In the summer of 1939 Bethune was appointed medical advisor to the Jin-Cha-Ji (Shanxi-Chahar-Hebei) Border Region Military District, under the direction of General Nie Rongzhen. Stationed with the Communist Party of China's Eighth Route Army in the midst of the Second Sino-Japanese War, Bethune cut his finger while operating
nd on a soldier and contracted septicaemia (blood poisoning) and died of his wounds on November 12, 1939. His last will in China was recorded shortly before his death, reading: Dear Commander Nie, Today I feel really bad. Probably I have to say farewell to you forever! Please send a letter to Tim Buck the General Secretary of Canadian Communist Party. Address is No.10, Wellington Street, Toronto, Canada. Please also make a copy for Committee on International Aid to China and Democratic Alliance of Canada, tell them, I am very happy here... Please give my Kodak Retina II camera to comrade Sha Fei. Norman Bethune, 04:20pm, November 11th, 1939
Virtually unknown in his homeland during his lifetime, Bethune received international recognition when Chairman Mao Zedong of the People's Republic of China published his essay entitled In Memory of Norman Bethune which documented the final months of the doctor's life in China. Almost the entire Chinese population knew about the essay which had become required reading in China's elementary schools during the 1960s. Grateful of Bethune's altruistic help to China, the nation's normal elementary school text book still has the essay today.
Established in 1991 and granted biannually, the Norman Bethune Medal is the highest medical honour in China, bestowed by the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Personnel of China, to recognize an individual's outstanding contribution, heroic spirit and great humanitarianism in the medical field.
2014 年 10 月，在“纪念白求恩逝世 75周年中国加拿大国际论坛”中，白求恩被称赞为“一个斗士”和“八路军最老的一位战士”；“一位医术精湛具有开创性的医学专家，也曾经是一位绝症患者；他是一个热情洋溢的人，对世界有着强烈的好奇感，也是一位诗人和画家，一位设计师、摄影家和宣传家；他个性极强又情感丰富，脾气暴躁但不失温柔，纯真率性又满怀激情。”
Norman Bethune in China with Nie Rongzhen (centre) and an interpreter, 1938