World's Doctors Reach Historic Decision About Weapons

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At its 48th General Assembly meeting in South Africa today, the World Medical Association reached a historic decision that the medical profession should treat the effects of weapons as a global and preventable health issue.

As a result, the WMA:

  • will support international efforts to define objective criteria which would measure the effects of current and future weapons and which could be used to stop the development, manufacture, sale and use of weapons;
  • insists that the continuous development of technology for medicine is not abused or diverted into weapons development;
  • calls on national medical associations to urge their governments to co-operate with the collection of such data as are necessary for establishing objective criteria;
  • calls on national medical associations to support and encourage research into the global public health effects of weapons use and to publicise the results to ensure that the public and governments are aware of the long term health consequences of weapons use on non-combatant individuals and populations.

Commenting on the decision, Dr Anders Milton, chairman of the WMA Council said:

"Today's decision is a declaration to all doctors that they have a responsibility beyond treating the individual wounded person and must unite in taking a preventative approach to the effects of weapons. "The human catastrophe currently being inflicted on many countries by anti-personnel mines is a prime example of how a weapon can effect the health of individuals, of societies and can destroy whole economies. It has been the objective documentation of this situation that has called into question the military utility of this weapon. We hope this will eventually lead to a total ban on these weapons."

Clearly the WMA would like to see the elimination of all weapon development, transfer and use. But as long as this is not possible we must ensure that we take every measure to limit the human consequences of weapon design and use.

Note to editors: The World Medical Association is an independent confederation of professional national medical associations from more than 60 countries.