Healthcare on the Battlefield

In Search of a Legal and Ethical Framework

in Journal of International Humanitarian Legal Studies
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During armed conflicts healthcare workers or medical personnel often work under extremely difficult and dangerous circumstances. In such situations doctors and nurses, hospitals and medical units are at a serious risk of being attacked. Medical personnel also face complex ethical dilemmas when it comes to the treatment of patients from all sides of a conflict. This concerns military medical personnel in particular: as members of the armed forces, they face dilemmas of ‘dual loyalty’ where they may have to choose between the interests of their employer (the military) and the interests of their patients. This contribution looks at these issues from the perspectives of medical ethics, international humanitarian law (ihl), and human rights law (hrl). The article argues that the standards of medical ethics continue to apply during armed conflicts, and that during such situations medical ethics, ihl and hrl are mutually reinforcing. The principle of ‘medical neutrality’ and the human ‘right to health’ are positioned as key norms in this field. The article presents a normative framework for the delivery of health care on the battlefield in the form of a set of commitments for actors involved in the conflict, including the belligerent parties and (military) medical personnel.

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References

13

General Comment 14, supra note 8, paras. 43–44.

16

Wall Opinion, supra note 10, para. 112.

22

British Medical Association, supra note 3, at 15.

30

Allhoff, supra note 5, at 33–37. See also L. London et al., ‘Dual Loyalty among Military Health Professionals: Human Rights and Ethics in Times of Armed Conflict’, 15(4) Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics, 381 (2006), at 381–391.

46

General Comment 14, supra note 8, para. 11.

49

Hunt, supra note 43, para. 39.

50

General Comment 14, supra note 8, para. 12.

52

General Comment 14, supra note 8, paras. 34–37.

54

General Comment 14, supra note 8, paras. 43 and 44 and more generally; General Comment 3, supra note 54, para. 10.

55

General Comment 14, supra note 8, paras. 43–44.

61

General Comment 14, supra note 8, para. 12.

65

Gross, supra note 29, at 325.

66

General Comment 14, supra note 8, para. 12.

68

General Comment 14, supra note 8, para. 12.

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