Images of war and medical ethics

BMJ 2003; 326 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.326.7393.774 (Published 12 April 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;326:774

Physicians should not permit filming of their patients without consent

  1. Jerome A Singh, senior lecturer (singhj9@nu.ac.za),
  2. Tania L DePellegrin (tania.depellegrin@utoronto.ca)
  1. Howard College School of Law, University of Natal, Durban, South Africa
  2. Joint Centre for Bioethics, University of Toronto, Canada

    A young girl's intestines spill from a stomach wound in her small body as she is rolled into the operating room. An injured woman screams in agony as her clothes are removed from her bloodied body. These gruesome and disturbing war images were just two of many such scenes captured from an Iraqi hospital by Qatar based Al-Jazeera news network on 28 March 2003. The graphic images of Iraqi civilian casualties captured the true reality and horror of the war. The way in which this was done raises questions about the boundaries of media ethics and, more importantly, medical ethics. We do not believe that the moral code of doctors differs markedly throughout the world. As such, doctors who permit footage of this nature to be captured fail in their legal and ethical duty …

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