Tag Archives: Chris Hatfield

Chris Hatfield describes how a bureaucratic tangle with the space doctor bureaucracy almost grounded him before his ISS expedition.

Bureaucracy in space: In a new book, astronaut Chris Hatfield describes how a bureaucratic tangle with the space doctor bureaucracy almost grounded him before his ISS expedition.

“The secrecy and paternalism really bothered me. They trusted me at the helm of the world’s space ship, but had been making decisions about my body as though I were a lab rat who didn’t merit consultation.” The “they” Hadfield refers to are members of the Multilateral Space Medicine Board (MSMB), a body of representatives from the U.S., Canada, Europe, Japan and Russia who judge the medical fitness of astronauts to go on missions. ….

The bureaucracy wanted Hatfield to undergo an emergency operation to make sure everything was okay. He refused,

triggering what Hadfield describes as a “Kafkaesque” journey through “a bureaucratic quagmire where logic and data simply didn’t count.” … “Internal politics and uninformed opinions were what mat­tered,” he says in the book. “Doctors who hadn’t ever performed a laparoscopic proce­dure were weighing in; people were making decisions about medical risks as though far greater risks to the space program itself were irrelevant.”

I find this interesting in that, of the astronauts I have interviewed over the years, I can’t remember any who had good words to say about the official government doctors they had to deal with, both in the U.S. and in Russia.