Doctors facing threats in war zones

March 12, 2012|By Meredith Cohn

A Johns Hopkins bioethicist joined other government and health officials in calling on the U.S. Congress to do more to protect doctors in war zones such as Syria.

In recent remarks to Congress, Leonard Rubenstein, a bioethicist at Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics specializing in protection of human rights in areas of conflict, said violations of medical neutrality must have consequences.

“Adherence to norms won’t take place unless it becomes a diplomatic priority, with the U.S. and other states using their considerable leverage to demand adherence to international law,” he said in a prepared statement.

Rubenstein supports the Medical Neutrality Protection Act, introduced in July  by Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash.

More than 1,800 people in 16 countries have been killed or wounded in violence against health care workers, in violation of international laws included in the Geneva Convention, noted Rubenstein, also a faculty member at the Johns Hopkins Center for Public Health and Human Rights.

The Obama administration and the World Health Organization have both been documented abuses, he said. But, “We need a far more vigorous approach, where perpetrators face consequences for their abuses,” he said.

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