“People who practise modern medicine are governed by a set of ethical rules both at times of peace and times of war. We are to treat all our patients equally and without prejudice. A physician’s ethical responsibility during a time of war is identical to that during a time of peace.
Medical neutrality refers to a principle of non-interference with medical services in times of armed conflict and civil unrest: physicians must be allowed to care for the sick and wounded, and soldiers must receive care regardless of their political affiliations. It is a fragile thing to maintain, as it requires opposing sides of a conflict to uphold the agreed principles. Medical staff are not permitted to discriminate against patients based on factors like politics or race, and in exchange, conflicting parties allow medical care to continue unimpeded.
As Dr Joanne Liu, former president of Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres, or MSF), stated in 2016 in reference to attacks in Aleppo, Syria on medical neutrality, ‘We say loud and clear: The doctor of your enemy is not your enemy.’ These principles allow medical professionals to treat the sick and wounded from either side of a conflict, the idea being they, themselves, will not be targeted as a result while they do this. In times of war, medical care and field hospitals are essential and it is important that they remain safe.”
More on Is Russia committing war crimes by bombing hospitals in Ukraine? And what happens when the principle of medical neutrality is abandoned during times of conflict? via Doctor’s Note.
Pregnant woman and baby die after attack on hospital in Mariupol: Woman was taken to another hospital in city in south-east Ukraine where medics could not save her or her child via The Guardian.