Intended for healthcare professionals

Views And Reviews

Medicine is still a victim of war: we desperately need new ideas

BMJ 2017; 357 doi: (Published 14 June 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;357:j2805
  1. Julian Sheather, specialist adviser (ethics and human rights), professionalism and guidance, policy directorate1,
  2. André Heller Pérache, head of programmes2
  1. 1BMA
  2. 2Médecins Sans Frontières UK
  1. jsheather{at}

What we are witnessing is war without restraint. But what do we do to stop it?

“No one is winning today’s wars, everybody is losing,” the UN secretary-general, António Guterres, said at the UN Security Council on 25 May, deploring the increasing attacks on medical facilities and staff in recent conflicts.

Politically we are in gridlock. The Geneva Conventions and international humanitarian law (IHL) are treated with contempt by combatants. In the wars disfiguring the Middle East, doctors and health services have become high value targets: the further you degrade the health and medical infrastructure, the further you undermine the populations they serve. What we are witnessing is war without restraint.

But what do we do when nothing is working to halt this? The usual answer is that we do what we did before, but more so. We say the same things, just louder; we reach for the same levers, despite …

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