Statue of Bethune in Montreal
Bethune's work in Spain in developing mobile medical units were the model for the later development of Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (MASH) units. The need to provide blood transfusions in a battlefield context led him to develop the first practical method for transporting blood.
He met his death while saving the lives of others; he died on November 12, 1939 of blood poisoning from a cut wound he received during a surgery, whilst with the Communist Party of China's legendary Eighth Route Army in midst of the second Sino-Japanese War.
Virtually unknown in his homeland during his lifetime, Doctor Bethune finally received international recognition as Chairman Mao Zedong of the People's Republic of China published his book, titled In Memory of Norman Bethune (original Chinese title : 紀念白求恩), which documented the final months of the doctor's life in China. Mao went ahead and made the book required reading for the entire Chinese population. Mao wrote in the book's preface: As a selfless internationalist, Doctor Bethune served as a role model for every human being.
What inspired Doctor Bethune to place himself in such dangerous and harsh conditions, being thousands of miles from home and practically working without pay? The CPC's propaganda machine made a persistent assertion that Bethune was a passionate member of the Communist Party of Canada with a devotion to the Chinese Socialist Movement (in China, only a comrade could qualify as a good man). The West, however, has been highly skeptical to the notion, and generally believes the doctor's motivation was exclusively based on humanitarian considerations.
Bethune College at York University, and Dr. Norman Bethune C.I. in Scarborough, Ontario were named after Dr. Bethune. Heroic statutes of Bethune have been erected throughout China.
Donald Sutherland played Bethune in two biographical films: "Bethune" (1977) and "Bethune: The Making of a Hero" (1990). The latter was a co-production of Telefilm Canada, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, FR3 TV France and China Film Co-production.