WMA Statement on the Cooperation of National Medical Associations during or in the Aftermath of Conflicts

Adopted by the 68th General Assembly, Chicago, United States, October 2017



1.      Throughout history, there have been cases of political conflict in which physicians and the professional bodies that represent them have adopted and reinforced the policies of their respective governments in violation of medical ethical standards. There have also been cases of physicians themselves deliberately engaging in criminal activities and embracing unethical ideologies. Even today, on-going moral and political conflicts can lead physicians and their representative organisations to overstep ethical boundaries.

2.      To prevent such breaches of ethical conduct from occurring, physicians and their representative organisations have a responsibility to rise above national conflicts, to foster mutual professional support and to base their actions on the highest medical ethical standards, including the physician’s primary obligation to the health of individual patients.

3.      All national medical associations and their members have an obligation to uphold the ethos of medicine, to demonstrate absolute forthrightness and honesty in confronting historical and ongoing national conflicts, as well as to preserve the lessons gleaned from all forms of unethical behaviour. This includes maintaining a clear commitment to human rights, explicitly rejecting racial, religious, gender, sexual orientation and any other forms of discrimination and actively confronting moral failures of the medical profession.

4.          Physicians have professional and ethical obligations that go beyond ethnic and national interests. Medical associations have a role to play in bridging the gap between different groups based on their common medical ethical codes, regardless of political, religious, ethnic and social background.  Medical expertise as represented in the medical associations could be a powerful agent for re-establishing respect for human rights in general at times of war and other conflicts.



5.      The World Medical Association urges National Medical Associations to:

5.1       Meet regularly in the spirit of enduring friendship and cooperation;

5.2    Take initiative to invite colleagues from medical associations from nations in conflict to meetings with the intention of re-establishing the contact and cooperation between the associations;

5.3       Engage in a meaningful exchange of experience and knowledge with the regional and global medical community in order to maintain the highest levels of ethical standards and care;

5.4    Ensure that all generations of physicians, including those who have not been involved in any wrongdoing, are made aware of the vital importance of medical ethics and the dire consequences of any departure therefrom. This can be accomplished by including these principles as part of basic medical training (see WMA Resolution on the Inclusion of Medical Ethics and Human Rights in the Curriculum of Medical Schools Worldwide) and continuing throughout physicians’ careers;

5.5    Recognise their obligation to work with each other and with other competent authorities to keep the memory of any deviations from medical ethics or violations of human rights alive, in order to prevent them from happening again;

5.6    Promote the preservation and growth of constructive relations in the medical profession, even in the aftermath of regretful pasts or on-going conflicts. To achieve this, it is particularly important to engage in continuous communication in an atmosphere of professional collegiality.

Collaboration, Conflict, Exchange, Medical Ethics, National Medical Association, NMA

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