Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:


Ukraine: Over 700 recorded attacks on health facilities and workers in year since Russia invasion

BMJ 2023; 380 doi: (Published 23 February 2023) Cite this as: BMJ 2023;380:p451

Rapid Response:

Re: Ukraine: Over 700 recorded attacks on health facilities and workers in year since Russia invasion

Dear Editor

This article is a testimony to the inescapable horror of war when even health care providers and their sick patients become part of the frontline.

On the one year anniversary of the Ukraine invasion on February 24th the ever seeming futility of war becomes especially apparent. Many doctors actively chose to be doctors so that they would never be involved in war, yet war is rarely a choice for many if not most people who are drawn into war.

And many doctors campaign against war because war in the end is about killing other humans and the destruction of lives.

A question that often comes to mind is should doctors do more to provide evidence of the suffering that war causes?

If doctors don't provide that evidence then who will?

If we think of war as a deadly yet preventable disease then perhaps doctors and healthcare providers have something to say to governments, to act as diplomats who are already based in every country to prevent the killing and the ruin and wreckage of war?

Doctors do not need necessarily to understand the politics that become the means by which wars are made, to be able to say a simple more universal message, to try, to stop the killing, to stop the disease.

The "kill chain" is how wars are won according to military doctrine, but killing seems to be and is the problem that needs to be stopped.

In any war the voice of the people on the ground seems hard to hear. How to hear the voice of the patient or soldier on the frontline, how can testimonies be heard, where are today's war poets published?

How can the medics, nurses, patients, soldiers and civilian accounts of injuries inflicted and suffered during the war be documented and be heard by the public and political decision makers?

Can the production of testimonies such as this BMJ article affect the likelihood and willingness to wage war and change the approach to waging war regarding the human cost and impact?

The scale of injuries and suffering experienced is something only the victim as a patient will know fully, but doctors are also advocates, and there to fight disease and maybe we need to start to work to end the very worst of human diseases, before that disease ends human life.

1/ Why War?'identification'_to_an_internal_agency_of_mental_aggression_an_early_'identification_with_the_aggressor'_predisposing_the_mind_to_internal_and_potentially_external_aggre

2/ Health Through Peace 2017

Competing interests: No competing interests

24 February 2023
John P. Mason