Intended for healthcare professionals


Serious violations of health workers’ rights during pandemic

BMJ 2020; 370 doi: (Published 14 July 2020) Cite this as: BMJ 2020;370:m2824

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Linked Opinion

New patterns of violence against healthcare in the covid-19 pandemic

  1. Julian Sheather, specialist adviser, ethics and human rights,
  2. Arthy Hartwell, head of international,
  3. Dominic Norcliffe-Brown, senior ethics adviser
  1. British Medical Association, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to: J Sheather JSheather{at}

States are failing to uphold even basic obligations to essential healthcare workers

Just weeks ago, British streets were ringing with applause for health workers and a million homemade rainbows celebrated the NHS and its heroic staff. Feted by politicians and lionised by journalists, healthcare workers were an angelic host holding our imperilled world together.

But globally the mood is changing. An important new report from Amnesty International, drawing on data from its monitoring of the rights of health and other essential workers in 63 countries, reveals a darkening picture.1 Public fear of the virus is morphing into stigmatisation of health professionals. And with it comes violence. Punched in the face in Chicago, doused with bleach in the Philippines, stoned by mobs in India, healthcare workers, already under enormous strain, are increasingly becoming targets.2

According to Amnesty, as of 28 April the Mexican Ministry of Interior had documented at least 47 acts of aggression against health workers. There is also a separate harrowing report of …

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