March 12, 2012

Bioethicist calls on Congress to protect docs in war zones

Greater leadership is needed from the U.S. government to protect physicians and health facilities from increased attacks in armed conflict zones like Syria, experts told members of Congress in a special briefing held March 7.

“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,” Leonard Rubenstein, a bioethicist at the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics specializing in protection of human rights in areas of conflict, said in a prepared statement.

Rubenstein, also a faculty member at the Johns Hopkins Center for Public Health and Human Rights, noted a report last year by the International Committee of the Red Cross that more than 1,800 people in 16 countries have been killed or wounded as a result of violence against health care services. Such attacks violate international laws of medical neutrality included in the Geneva Conventions.