The tragedy of medical guinea pigs in the GDR


deadly trade

At 8:55 p.m. on Arte

In 1988, it was not only the communist regime that was necrosing in the GDR, in Karl-Marx-Stadt, but also the young Kati, suffering from multiple sclerosis. Armin Glaser, her father, works for the Stasi as a lieutenant, leading a merciless hunt against the growing number of opponents of the state. Confident, he leaves his daughter in the hands of the doctors at the hospital and their new treatments. However, uncertainty gradually sets in and spreads, like the poison of illness in Kati’s body. Her roommate, Nikola, victim of the same disease and rock rebel with smoky eyes, heals much faster than her, with the same medication.

One thing leading to another, the fabric of the lie is unraveled by Armin: pharmaceutical laboratories in the FRG are conducting “double-blind” trials on guinea pigs in the GDR. Kati and Nikola are among them. One receives a placebo, the other, the drug, without anyone, not even the doctors, knowing in advance the attribution. Kati has drawn the wrong number and is untreated. Everything explodes, the truth is released. For defying authority and carrying out his investigation, Armin is imprisoned. The Berlin Wall crumbles a year later.

Inspired by a real scandal over medical trials conducted by Western firms on involuntary guinea pigs in the GDR who, according to Der Spiegelnearly 50,000 victims, deadly trade spins the metaphor of a rotting diet that has no miracle cure. By mixing questions of medical or political ethics, director Urs Egger powerfully tells the story of a painful but liberating awareness. Armin loses faith in his cause and cannot survive in a system from which he has lifted the veil. Kati, she dares to confront her parents, to show them that she is no longer the wise and gentle little girl she was when she entered the hospital. This very successful film paints a subtle portrait of a society that is waking up and breaking down the walls of lies.


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