Doctors under the black flag of the Islamic State

Looking for dramatic examples of dilemmas in medical ethics? Try being a doctor in territory ruled by the Islamic State. In a disturbing blog post, bioethicist Craig Klugman has sifted through media reports and found many examples of how difficult it can be to work as a doctor or nurse in the occupied city of Mosul or other centres.

* “In some reports, hospitals and health care practitioners are being targeted for death, abduction, and arrest. ISIS has declared that physicians who do not report to work will have their property seized and be exiled. Physician autonomy on whom to treat and on whom to use limited resources has been removed. There are reports of medication and blood being taken by soldiers to be used on their own and not on civilians or other patients, no matter their medical need.”

* Some doctors have refused to treat ISIS wounded. One report said that ten doctors at a hospital in Mosul had been executed for refusing to treat. The scant details suggested that ISIS had forced regular patients out to make room for its own wounded.

Klugman points out the agonising dilemma faced by these doctors. “On the one hand, this resistance can be viewed as bravery and courage—not lending assistance to a regime with which they do not only philosophically disagree but that has also demonstrated a lack of respect for human life. … On the other hand, patients are vulnerable and are people in need. If a physician can help someone in need, is there not an obligation to do so?

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.