Protecting Patients & Their Doctors

afp-resized1© AFP PHOTO / Karim Sahib - Iraq. A doctor surveys the rubble left in the Adnan Khairallah Hospital in Baghdad after it was hit by a missile

The WMA was created to promote the highest possible standards of medical ethics, medical education and human rights. In recent years there has been a worrying trend of physicians being tortured or victimized by dictatorial regimes or terrorist groups. During wars and armed conflicts, hospitals and other medical facilities are often attacked and misused. Patients and medical personnel are killed or wounded. Such attacks are a violation of the Geneva Conventions (1949) and their additional Protocols forming the core of the international humanitarian law.

WHO Role in Humanitarian Emergencies

In May 2012, the World Health Assembly adopted the resolution "WHO's response, and role as the health cluster lead, in meeting the growing demands of health in humanitarian emergencies" whereby Member States call on WHO Director General: "(8) to provide leadership at the global level in developing methods for systematic collection and dissemination of data on attacks on health facilities, health workers, health transports, and patients in complex humanitarian emergencies, in coordination with other relevant United Nations bodies, other relevant actors, and intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations, avoiding duplication of efforts".The WMA made a statement on behalf of the WHPA as well other international supportive NGOs in support of the resolution.

WMA Current Policy & Action:

The WMA has been active in condemning documented attacks on medical personnel and facilities in armed conflicts and other situations of violence. Physicians and other health care personnel must be considered as neutral and must not be prevented from fulfilling their duties.

The WMA works with other health, humanitarian and human rights organizations, as appropriate, creating alliances to combine strengths and advocate for the highest possible standards of health for all people. The WMA is a partner of the health Care in Danger Project (HCiD) led by the ICRC.

The WMA has also an observer status in the Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition.

Recent Press releases & actions:

WMA Policies:

For more information on the current actions undertaken by the WMA in support of physicians in distress, please contact Clarisse Delorme at WMA secretariat.

Useful links: