Gandhi’s Hypocrisy


In August 1942, Gandhi and his wife, Kasturba, among others, were imprisoned by the British in Aga Khan Palace near Poona. Kasturba had poor circulation, and she’d weathered several heart attacks. While detained in the palace, she developed bronchial pneumonia. One of her four sons, Devadas, wanted her to take penicillin. Gandhi refused. He was okay with her receiving traditional remedies, such as water from the Ganges, but he refused her any medicines, including this newfangled antibiotic, saying that the Almighty would have to heal her.

The Life and Death of Mahatma Gandhi quotes him on February 19, 1944: “If God wills it, He will pull her through.” Gandhi: A Life adds this wisdom from the Mahatma: “You cannot cure your mother now, no matter what wonder drugs you may muster. She is in God’s hands now.” Three days later, Devadas was still pushing for the penicillin, but Gandhi shot back: “Why don’t you trust God?” Kasturba died that day.

The next night, Gandhi cried out: “But how God tested MY faith!” He told one of Kasturba’s doctors that the antibiotic wouldn’t have saved her and that allowing her to have it “would have meant the bankruptcy of MY faith.” (Emphasis mine.)

But Gandhi’s faith wasn’t much of an obstacle a short time later when it was his ass on the line. A mere six weeks after Kasturba died, Gandhi was flattened by malaria. He stuck to an all-liquid diet as his doctors tried to convince him to take quinine. But Gandhi refused and died of the disease, right? No, actually, after three weeks of deterioration, he took the diabolical drug and quickly recovered. The stuff about trusting God’s will and testing faith only applied when his wife’s life hung in the balance. When he needed a drug to stave off the Grim Reaper, down the hatch it went.


  1. From

    Quinine was first used to treat malaria in Rome in 1631. During the 1600s, malaria was endemic to the swamps and marshes surrounding the city of Rome.

    It would appear that quinine was hardly the experimental drug that penicillin was in the early 1940s.

    Quinine was extracted from the bark of the South American cinchona tree, isolated and named in 1820 by French researchers Pierre Joseph Pelletier and Joseph Caventou. The name was derived from the original Quechua (Native American) word for the cinchona tree bark, “Quina” or “Quina-Quina”, which roughly means “bark of bark” or “holly bark”. Prior to 1820, the bark was first dried, ground to a fine powder, and then mixed into a liquid (commonly wine) before being drunk.

    Seems like a pretty traditional remedy to me. A lot more so than penicillin, for which the human consumption of natural molds was not, I believe, a precursor therapy.

    Quinine is a flavour component of tonic water. According to tradition, the bitter taste of anti-malarial quinine tonic led British colonials in India to mix it with gin, thus creating the gin and tonic cocktail, which is still popular today in both India and Great Britain, and in other former British colonies.

    In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration limits tonic water quinine to 83 ppm, which is one-half to one-quarter the concentration used in therapeutic tonic.

    Now, that’s pretty cool…but I doubt Ghandi regularly quaffed gin & tonics.

  2. It’s not the fact that penicillin was a new drug that is the issue here its the fact that Gandhi refused his wife treatment as he felt it would be an act of violence to inject her! He obviously didn’t feel it to be an act of violence on his body when he went under the knife to have his appendix removed. Maybe he should have put his faith in God then!

Comments are closed.