The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) recently interviewed Moa Herrgard, IFMSA Liaison Officer for Human Rights and Peace Issues (SCORP) about medical ethics. It was originally published online on Health Care in Danger Project Page:
IFMSA represents more than 1, 2 million medical students. We are the medical professionals of tomorrow, future global health leaders and change makers of today. We empower and assist our members to implement their dreams and thereby create a change in the community around them during a crucial period of their careers. We have recently with support from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Health Care in Danger project recognized the need of enhanced actions to adders the violence towards health care workers and facilities within conflicts.
IFMSA is a very active NGO representing medical students in more than 100 countries. Why do you think it is important that medical students are involved in the Health Care in danger project?
Within the medical curriculum worldwide, the issue of health ethics while under threat of violence or legal action has little or no inclusion. The knowledge regarding threats and violations of health relate aspects of international humanitarian law, human rights and health ethics, are typically poorly understood by medical students. In order to ensure that future health care personnel are fully aware about their professional ethics and the corresponding rights and responsibilities, it is important that students not only are given knowledge but also are presented with opportunities to discuss and reflect upon health ethics and its implications. It is crucial that future medical professionals possess the insight in the medical behaviors important for ensuring health equality, and violations of health ethics in today’s and tomorrow’s society. IFMSAs members will be the future physicians dealing with these issues, but the fact is that the situation is already affecting medical students around the world. There have been attacks, for example mentioned in Central Africa, on students who stayed to help in medical emergencies. These students had to take refuge in safe locations.
With necessary knowledge and skills medical students worldwide are natural actors in advocating for enhancing health ethics in the medical curriculum, with special attention to violations of health ethics in today’s society. This is a long term and sustainable but still concrete action in order to create the necessary change within the health care system and regain the respect for medical ethics, as well as equip health care workers with knowledge and skills on how to effectively act within scenarios of violence towards health care workers and facilities.
Young people have in the past repetitively proven strength of creating behavioral change in our local, national and global society. We have a unique capacity to raise awareness in our communities and amongst fellow peers and our federations multicultural and multinational platforms provide a basis of cultural and behavioral change. The current violations of human rights, medical ethics and international humanitarian law the on-going violence towards health care workers and facilities result in need this change as one action of creating a sustainable and long term end of the current problem.
As future medical professionals our thoughts and opinions in discussions are important, as we are the inheritors of plans of actions to handle the situation
What is the role that IFMSA can play to raise awareness about this yet underestimated issue and promote concrete solutions?
IFMSA have a vision of a world where health care systems, health care personnel and patients, in conflict zones as well as in non-combat zones, enjoy the fullest respect in accordance with the principles stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This is a world where health care personnel have the possibility to work in accordance with health ethics and are encouraged by society to do so without risk of personal threats or legal reprimands. There are an increased number of actors in international society recognizing the violence towards health care workers and facilities. Together we all share this vision.
Medical students are young people, ready and willing to take our responsibilities of addressing this problem based upon our resources. Young people and students have proven a unique capacity to raise awareness in our communities and amongst fellow peers and also lead cultural and behavioral change through our multicultural and multinational networks.
Can you explain us a little bit more in details your initiative “Ethical Principles of Health Care in Conflict and Other Emergencies “?
By initiating the project “Ethical Principles of Health Care in Conflict and Other Emergencies” IFMSA will take its responsibility in reaching the vision. This project is a platform for medical students worldwide to bring attention to one of the largest threat to medical ethics in history. We aim to take the attention from aspirational policy development to on-the-ground actions.
Through the platform the project provide we will address the lack of knowledge of health ethics, including current threats against it as well as law set to protect it. It takes standpoint from ICRC’s project Healthcare in Danger and uses material produced by ICRC. We see the need to call upon the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International Humanitarian Law and the Declaration of Geneva to raise awareness on threats toward health ethics among medical students, medical professionals as well as society. By this project we intend to create a behavioral change where health ethics have the fullest respect and health professionals are not hindered in its implementation.
The project “Ethical Principles of Health Care in Conflict and Other Emergencies” is expected to integrate components of delivering advocacy and building capacity amongst medical students through workshops, trainings and symposiums. The workshop is directed to medical students, providing basic knowledge on the topic and introducing participants to possibilities of further involvement in the project. The thematic symposium will in addition to this enhance the political focus on the issue of violence towards health workers, and the importance of medical professionals being aware of the current threat to health ethics, International Humanitarian Law and Human Right to Health. The training will more comprehensively increase medical students’ knowledge about health ethics, International Humanitarian Law and Human Right to Health, and threats concerning their implementations. Focus on and exemplified by violence towards health workers.
After perusing capacity building the medical students are fully prepared to deliver meaningful advocacy, create awesomeness campaigns and educated peer-to-per.
What are the achievements (linked to this specific initiative) that you foresee for the upcoming years?
Within the coming years we, the IFMSA, aim to achieve the following and thereby make a meaningful contribution to one of the largest threat to medical ethics in history.
- Future medical professionals have increased knowledge about health ethics, the medical behavior is important for ensuring health equality, and violations of health ethics in today’s society. Future medical professionals will have an appreciation of the challenges posed by violations of health ethics when medical professionals are either threatened by or the victims of violence.
- Medical students worldwide are equipped with skills and knowledge in order to advocate for enhancing health ethics in the medical curriculum, with special attention given to violations of health ethics in today’s society. Special attention has been given to the violations of health ethics when medical professionals and health care personnel are the victim of violence or threat of violence.
- A natural platform for medical students to discuss health ethics, obstacles in implementing it and the danger if it is not fully respected and maintained has been created.
- A natural platform for medical students to develop and implement peer-to-peer education of health ethics and violations of health ethics, including knowledge on the increasing violence towards health workers has been created.
Do you want to take actions toward a long term-solution of the violence towards health workers and facilities? Do you want to enhance the knowledge of this threat against health ethics amongst your fellow peers and equip them with capacities to make contribution in the global movement addressing this topic?
-> Contact Chiara Zanette ([email protected]) at International Committee of the Red Cross Health Care in Danger Project and she will invite you to the Health Care in Danger platform.
-> Contact the IFMSA Liaison Officer of Human Rights and Peace, Moa M Herrgård, to learn more about the IFMSA project Health Care in Danger – “Ethical Principles of Health Care in Conflict and Other Emergencies”.