Intended for healthcare professionals

Observations Humanitarian Aid

The sideline or frontline: where should the UK medical profession stand in times of armed conflict overseas?

BMJ 2014; 348 doi: (Published 10 January 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;348:g83
  1. Faheem Ahmed, medical student, King’s College London at Guy’s, King’s and St Thomas’ Medical School
  1. faheem.ahmed{at}

Doctors can no longer afford to be apathetic in the face of violations against other doctors

Only days before his proposed release date the British orthopaedic surgeon Abbas Khan was found dead in a government prison in Damascus. Arrested soon after his arrival in Syria, Khan had planned to stay for two weeks in support of the humanitarian relief effort. Instead, he was detained for over a year and was starved, subjected to physical abuse, and tortured.1 He was the second British doctor reported to have been killed in Syria last year, after the death of Isa Abdurrahman in June.2 These two men had a selfless desire to uphold their oath as doctors: “consecrating their lives to the service of humanity.”3

British doctors have often found themselves, intentionally and unintentionally, in the middle of wars in other countries. This leaves our medical community with two important options: we should either discourage doctors from putting their lives in danger …

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