Frances Ames

South African physician

Frances Rix Ames (20 April 192011 November 2002) was a South African neurologist, psychiatrist, and human rights activist best known for her work on the medical ethics inquiry involving the death of anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko while in police custody.


  • All individuals are imperfect and forgetful and find it difficult to transcend immediate self-interest. Historically therefore it has been deemed essential to create constitutional bodies that uphold and insist on adherence to certain ethical standards...If all these medical ethical bodies are to gain the respect of the public they should remain alert to intervene whenever these standards are threatened.
    • Letters, "Biko Revisited", SAMJ, Volume 80, July 20, 1991, p. 107.
  • I think submission to authority and absolving oneself from blame by saying that one has to obey orders are widespread...I think all medical students should be taught about the research on submissiveness being a key etiological factor in the perpetuation of atrocities. They should be fully familiar with Milgram's work and reflect on Hannah Arendt's concept of the 'banality of evil'.
    • Institutional Hearing: The Health Sector, Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Volume 4, Chapter 5, p. 135.
  • I don't want to give the impression that because of gender, I was oppressed. I was, but then I lent myself to it. I regret it, as it was a disservice to women. But I was too unaware for too long.
    • van der Unde, "Interview: A woman of substance", SAMJ, Volume 80, No. 11, November 11, 1995, p. 1203.
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