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Health-care workers on the frontline: an online discussion


How can you keep patient confidentiality in a war zone if you have the legal duty to share information with authorities or if you are morally compelled to denounce a human rights violation? Can importing health-care strangle local health systems? Are medical ethics applicable in armed conflicts? How can you treat wounded enemy soldiers impartially and as you would soldiers from your own side? How can you ensure appropriate medical standards are maintained in an emergency when electricity and water are not guaranteed? These and many other critical questions are faced by thousands of health-care workers around the world while providing medical assistance in armed violence. The answer is not always easy but international humanitarian law, human rights law and medical ethics can give some guidance. On the occasion of the launch of a unique guide for health-care workers, three experts respond to questions on the responsibilities of medical staff in armed conflict or other emergencies.

The event

The ICRC recently published a guide tackling the rights and the responsibilities of the health-care workers in armed conflict and other emergencies and based for the very first time on three main sources – international humanitarian law, human rights law and medical ethics. This online discussion offers the opportunity to go even further and directly interact with experts that work in this field either as academics or as experienced practitioners, including one of the authors of the guide.

You can connect to the online discussion on 21 January from the current page: www.healthcareindanger.org/livestream

21 January 2013

14.30 GMT/15.30 CET

Who can attend?

The event is open to anybody interested in knowing more about the rights and the responsibilities of health-care workers in armed violence. It would be of particular interest for both health-care workers that experience such situations on a daily basis, including Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers, as well as for researchers and academics working in public health, international law or the social sciences.     

The experts

Dr Vivienne Nathanson is the Director of Professional Activities at the British Medical Association (BMA), responsible for overseeing the Association's work on public health, medical ethics and international affairs. After past roles as Professor of Medical Management  and of Public Health Ethics, she continues to teach at Durham and Cambridge Universities and educate in fora around the world. Dr Nathanson has a particular interest in public health, ethics, weapons control and human rights.

Doris Schopper is professor at the faculty of medicine of the University of Geneva and director of CERAH in Geneva (Centre for Education and Research in Humanitarian Action). After completing a doctorate in Public Health at Harvard, she spent several years in the field with Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and was later nominated president of the Swiss branch of the organization and twice president of the MSF International Council. She has been a member of the board of Pro Victimis Foundation-Geneva since 2003, and its president since 2010. 

Robin Coupland is a medical adviser at the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). A graduate of Cambridge University of Clinical Medicine, he trained as surgeon in the UK, and is also the holder of a Graduate Diploma in International Law from the University of Melbourne in Australia. Since joining the ICRC in 1987, he worked as a field surgeon in Thailand, Cambodia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Angola, Somalia, Kenya and Sudan. He is one of the authors of the newly-launched guide " Health care in danger: the responsibilities of health-care personnel working in armed conflicts and other emergencies", and has also developed a public health model of armed violence and its effects as a tool for policy-making, reporting and communication. He has published medical textbooks and many articles about care of wounded people and the effects of weapons and armed violence. 

If you wish to promote the event:

You can share this page via your preferred social media channel.

Download and print this event poster and place it at your workplace or university: 

Health Care in Danger livestream event poster (high res)

Health Care in Danger livestream event poster (light pdf)


Read about and download the guide "Responsibilities of health-care workers in armed conflict and other emergencies"


For more information about the event, contact:

Olga Miltcheva, Health Care in Danger campaign coordinator, tel: +41 22 730 2090 or + 41 79 218 75 43, e-mail: Olga Miltcheva

For media requests, contact:

Bijan Farnoudi, Health Care in Danger Public Relations Officer, tel: +41 22 730 2180
or +41 79 536 92 59, e-mail: Bijan Farnoudi




Libya, 2011. On the frontline in Misrata, a doctor looks for patients in need of evacuation. 

Libya, 2011. On the frontline in Misrata, a doctor looks for patients in need of evacuation.
© ICRC / André Liohn

Health Care in Danger livestream event poster (see below to download) 

Health Care in Danger livestream event poster (see below to download)