NPR logo How Does Army Explain Letting Alleged Fort Hood Shooter Treat Patients?

How Does Army Explain Letting Alleged Fort Hood Shooter Treat Patients?

One question among the many that await answers in the wake of Thursday's shootings at Fort Hood in Texas is how was it possible for the Army to let alleged shooter, Maj. Nidal Hasan, treat soldiers with psychological disturbances related to their Iraq or Afghanistan deployments?

Hasan's behavior was apparently deeply troubling to his colleagues at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington.

Not only has Hasan described as a cold, distant personality and not particularly impressive as a doctor in training, but his behavior alarmed his colleagues.

NPR's Daniel Zwerdling told a chilling story on Morning Edition Friday about a lecture Hasan gave at Walter Reed.

As Daniel said:

And he gave a lecture one day that really freaked a lot of doctors out. They have grand rounds right? Dozens of doctors come into an auditorium and somebody stands at the podium at the front and gives a lecture about some academic issue, what drugs to prescribe for what condition.

Instead of that, Hasan apparently gave a long lecture on the Koran. And talked about how if you don't believe you are condemned to hell, your head is cut off, burning oil is burned (sic) down your throat.

And I said to the psychologist, this is just a very interesting informational session, right, where he's educating about the Koran?

And he said what disturbed everybody was Hasan seemed to believe these things and actually a Muslim in the audience raised his hand and said "Excuse me, but I'm a Muslim and I do not believe these thing sin the Koran. And then I don't believe what you say the Koran says.


And Hasan didn't say 'Well, I'm just giving you one point of view.' He just stared the guy down.

One of the psychiatrists he interviewed told Daniel:

"When I heard the news about Hasan, honestly my first thought was 'That makes a lot of sense. That completely fits the person I knew."

Despite such concerns, Hasan was still allowed to treat patients, many of them presumably in fragile psychological states. That's a realization that will no doubt astound many.

It seems reasonable to ask if the answer to why Hasan was allowed to treat patients had to do with the Army's pressing need for mental health professionals after eight years of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The requirement for mental health professionals only intensified after reports, like those by Daniel, about the poor mental-health care being provided by the Army, when it wasn't trying to dissuade soldiers from seeking care in the first place.