In a statement yesterday, the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, said: “The Taliban has proudly claimed responsibility for this despicable act of wanton violence. These men and women were in the region to deliver free medical care to impoverished Afghan villagers, according to the NGO they were working with.”
Dr Pesce said it is a tragedy that these doctors could lose their lives while seeking to provide medical care to poor and oppressed people in a country at war.
“Many doctors, including Australians, travel to the world’s trouble spots to provide vital medical services to the innocent victims of conflict,” Dr Pesce said.
“All governments must do all in their power to protect doctors and other medical personnel, volunteers and aid workers who put their safety and their lives on the line to help others. Doctors should be afforded appropriate protection so that they can provide medical care as part of their ethical commitment to all people who require it.
The AMA supports the World Medical Association (WMA) Council Resolution Supporting the Preservation of International Standards of Medical Neutrality and the WMA Regulations in Times of Armed Conflict, which advocate the following:
- Medical neutrality should be upheld during times of conflict;
- Governments, armed forces and others in positions of power should comply with the Geneva Conventions to ensure that physicians and other health care professionals can provide care to everyone in need in situations of armed conflict. This obligation includes a requirement to protect health care personnel;
- The WMA is committed to the universal right to health, and access to the highest attainable standard of health care. This universal right is not conditional on peaceful existence, although a peaceful existence accommodates greater ability to provide health to all;
- All parties involved in conflict situations should abide by the rules of international medical ethics, as well as the provisions of international humanitarian law, as expressed in the Geneva Conventions, particularly their common article 3, and, specifically, to assure the provision of medical care and/or evacuation of the trapped and wounded and to refrain from targeting medical personnel and medical facilities;
- Medical ethics in times of armed conflict is identical to medical ethics in times of peace, as stated in the International Code of Medical Ethics of the WMA. If, in performing their professional duty, physicians have conflicting loyalties, their primary obligation is to their patients; in all their professional activities, physicians should adhere to international conventions on human rights, international humanitarian law and WMA declarations on medical ethics;
- Physicians have a clear duty to care for the sick and injured. Provision of such care should not be impeded or regarded as any kind of offence. Physicians must never be prosecuted or punished for complying with any of their ethical obligations; and
- Physicians must be granted access to patients, medical facilities and equipment and the protection needed to carry out their professional activities freely. Necessary assistance, including unimpeded passage and complete professional independence, must be granted.
9 August 2010
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