Attacks on Health Care | Medical Impartiality

A physician’s ethical responsibility to provide care during times of war is identical to that during times of peace.

When armed forces bomb hospitals, attack ambulances, and target health care providers, the effect on the sick and injured is devastating. Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) promotes medical impartiality – the principle of noninterference with medical services in times of armed conflict and civil unrest. 

For more than 35 years, PHR has documented violations of medical impartiality around the world. Physicians and other health professionals have a duty to treat patients regardless of their background – the concept known as medical impartiality. The international code of medical ethics, first adopted by the World Medical Association (WMA) General Assembly in 1949, states that a “physician shall give emergency care as a humanitarian duty unless he/she is assured that others are willing and able to give such care,” and “always bear in mind the obligation to respect human life.” 

Although governments have the obligation to protect physicians’ impartiality and ability to care for the sick and injured without discrimination, sometimes, physicians face persecution for their nondiscriminatory treatment of the injured and sick. PHR continues to document the deliberate targeting of health care systems and personnel, and advocates to hold violators to account. We have investigated and spoken out against attacks on medical impartiality in Bahrain, Egypt, El Salvador, Kashmir, Iraqi-occupied KuwaitMyanmar, PanamaSudan, Syria, ThailandTurkey, the United States, Yemen, and the former Yugoslavia, among others.

Fact Sheets:

The Impartial Provision of Medical Care

Effective Protections for Health Care Workers Under International Human Rights Law

Medical Neutrality and the Use of Weaponized Tear Gas in Bahrain

Our Work

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