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Health Care in Danger: 1st Anniversary: Ethical Principles of HealthcarePersonnel in Times of Conflict or Other Emergencies.


Health Care in Danger:

1st Anniversary: Ethical Principles of Healthcare Personnel in Times of Conflict or Other Emergencies





Attacks against health care continue to take place, particularly, but not only, in conflict zones. As highlighted by the ICRC data collection exercise conducted between 2012 and 2014,  a number of these incidents produce when ethical decision making by health care personnel is hampered (for example by restrictive domestic laws), or personnel lack some guidance.

Hence the importance to disseminate and promote the respect of the ethical principles governing the health profession and support health-care staff with tools which can help them deal with ethical dilemmas.

One year ago, on 30 June 2015, the ICRC hosted a public livestreamed conference to mark the launch of “The Ethical principles of health care in times of armed conflict and other emergencies”. Qualified as "ground-breaking" by ICRC President Peter Maurer, the ethical principles have been since signed by:
• The International Council of Nurses (ICN),
• The World  Medical Association (WMA, including Junior Doctors’ Network - JDN)
• The International Committee of Military Medicine (ICMM)
• The International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations (IFMSA)
• The International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP)
• The World Confederation for Physical Therapy (WCPT)
• The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

By endorsing the ethical principles, the signatory organizations, representing more than 30 million professionals worldwide, showed their firm commitment to protect both patients and health care personnel operating in conflict zones.

Video of last year’s conference:
One year after we would like to give you an update on the events and activities undertaken by these organizations to promote the principles worldwide within their own networks:

“Following in the steps of the Health Care in Danger initiative initiated by the International Red Cross and the Red Crescent, the International Council of Nurses have joined with other partners to agree on a moral code of common values known as the Ethical Principles of Health Care in Times of Armed Conflict and Other Emergencies. Presented at the United Nations Security Council in October 2015, this document aims to ensure the safety and protection of health care workers as well as patients in situations of armed disputes. Since the launch of the Ethical Principles, ICN has broadcasted the code in three languages to all its members in order to spread the message and share the code with over 130 nursing associations representing an estimated 16 million nurses around the world. ICN has also published and promoted the final version of the code on its website in order to reach a greater audience. By doing so, we wish that these principles will be followed by our members and that the message will be circulated and followed not only by nurses but by the entirety of the health care team. ICN is proud to be part of such efforts and will always be a strong and loyal partner when aiming to promote and ensure the safety of the health community and the patients we care for around the world."

“The WMA advertised widely the Ethical Principles of Health Care in Times of Armed Conflict and Other Emergencies within its membership (national medical associations and associate members) and more generally within its network of contacts. This was operated though social media, mails, articles in our newsletter, presentations at WMA meetings and other relevant events. We aim in particular to foster the use of the Principles by national medical associations and have been incorporating references to it in our political statements, press releases and other materials where appropriate. We welcome any opportunity to collaborate with the ICRC and our health professional partners, calling attention to the urgent need to respect the ethical principles and protect health care personnel at all times.”
“ What we are doing at JDN at this stage is to increase awareness about safeguarding access to health care and its delivery and to inform our network of young doctors that they are not alone when they are working and facing ethical dilemmas in Humanitarian Action. HCiD tools and the ethical principles are essential guidelines for many Junior Doctors acting with a passion for humanity in the ground”.

“After the approval of the document with the ethical principles by the General Assembly of the ICMM in May 2015, the National Delegates of the 112 Member states of the ICMM were asked to discuss the document with their national military authorities in order to study the possibility to incorporate the ethical principles into the national educational programs of all military personnel.  The ICMM Centre of Reference for Education on International humanitarian law and Ethics was asked to organize round tables and discussions on the document during the ICMM World Congresses and Regional Congresses. The approval recently of resolution 2286 of the Security Council of the UN on protection of health care in armed conflicts gives us the opportunity to send, in the coming days, a letter to the Ministers of Defense of the member states of the ICMM to ask them to study the possibility to implement the recommendations of the Security Council into their national Armed Forces.”

“The International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA) is proud to have endorsed the Ethical principles of health care in times of armed conflict and other emergencies. Through our servers and platforms, IFMSA has disseminated these principles, reaching up to over 7000 medical students worldwide. Yet we are determined to spread the principles even more widely. Seeing the rise in violations to medical ethics in conflict settings and the rising number of emergencies worldwide, medical students are now even more prone to encounter such settings along the course of their career. As IFMSA we are committed to building the capacity of building of medical students to understand the ethics that guide their practice in conflict and emergency settings"

“The International Pharmaceutical Federation promoted the launch of the document in the International Pharmacy Journal (FIP’s official journal) and disseminated the news to the pharmacy press and through social media channels.”

“The World Confederation for Physical Therapy’s 112 member organizations have given their support to the ethical principles (pending final General Meeting approval). The Confederation has also published news stories and social media reporting on its pledge to the ethical principles, and publicizing their importance in the light of attacks on hospitals in Syria. -  Physical therapists are increasingly forming part of frontline teams in emergency and conflict zones and along with all health workers should not be denied the right to work in safety and security - said Tracy Bury, WCPT Interim Chief Executive Officer. “The ethical principles are an important tool to help us achieve this.”

“Following the letter sent by the ICRC President to the UNSC in October on Ethical principles of health care personnel in times of conflict or other emergencies, the ICRC was involved at Geneva and New York levels (and in collaboration with MSF) in an intense and successful diplomatic process: on May 3, the Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution S/RES/2286 on Health Care in Armed Conflict. With this landmark resolution, the P5 and all non-permanent members of the Council send a strong political message reaffirming principles of international human rights and humanitarian law that provide health services immunity form attack and demanding that states and all parties to armed conflict comply with their provisions. The resolution reaffirms also that health workers should never be punished for following their ethical obligations to provide care, no matter the identity or affiliation of the patient. It calls on states to reform their domestic laws, train their militaries and security forces in the requirements of international law, collect data, engage in measures to prevent violations and investigate violations that take place. It demands an end to impunity, including criminal prosecution where warranted. It calls upon the Secretary-General to report violations in briefings to the council on country situations and in other reports relating to the protection of civilians, including recording specific acts of violence against health facilities and personnel and remedial actions and accountability measures taken. Finally, it asks the Secretary-General to advise the Security Council on measures being taken to prevent attacks and ensure accountability.
The document Ethical principles of health care personnel in times of conflict or other emergencies has been widely promoted also through the official HCiD Website, the online platform and our Twitter account and it was translated in several languages. It has been shared with Red Cross Red Crescent National Societies and with key partners within the HCiD Community.”

For more information visit the Health Care in Danger website