Ayesha Le Breton
October 13, 2023
In 1969, Punjabi homemaker Pritam Kaur was having a bad migraine, so she visited a doctor in Coventry, England. The doctor diagnosed her with anemia and prescribed a regimen of one specially prepared, hand-delivered chapati for Kaur to eat every day. He told Kaur he would schedule follow-up tests to assess whether the treatment had worked and her health had improved.
Unbeknownst to her, Kaur was ingesting much more than the South Asian flatbread known as chapati, roti, or phulka. Her “medicine” was laced with radioactive iron salt. This would be the start of a secretive study that experimented on 21 Indian women in Coventry — without their consent — a truth that would come out only decades later. To this day, the ‘chapati study’ offers little resolution. Kaur’s experience reveals a sordid pattern of exploitative research that has long marred Western medicine.