Ethical considerations during times of conflict: Challenges and pitfalls for the psychiatrist

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Despite the advances of civilization, conflict remains in many areas around the world. Often psychiatry finds itself playing an essential role in dealing with the consequences of conflict or influencing the process. Along with this involvement comes great responsibility as well as many associated ethical dilemmas. Although bound by professional medical oaths, many physicians disregard fundamental medical ethical principles during times of conflict and situations of "dual loyalty." The phenomenon should be addressed so that ethical awareness and sensitivity to these issues are nurtured. Important factors for psychiatrists during times of conflict to consider include their "social contract" with the community, dangers of boundary violations, the ethics of media contact, involvement in governmental and political activities and confidentiality. In addition, their role in conflict resolutionand unique ethical considerations in the military should be considered. While as regular citizens, psychiatrists in their individual capacity may involve themselves in political activism, at an organizational level it should bediscouraged. A physician's skills should only be exploited to save lives and provide comfort as entrusted by society, and any other pursuit, even in the name of the state, should be proscribed. Rather than engage in political activism, psychiatrists can promote the rights of patients, especially if these rights are limited during conflict. Responsibility and ethically-driven commitment needs to be primary for the psychiatrist who involves himself either directly or indirectly with patients during times of conflict. Trauma and its effects during conflict should be addressed without any unbalanced attention to pathological responses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)122-129
Number of pages8
JournalIsrael Journal of Psychiatry and Related Sciences
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2013


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