At the Intersection of Health Care and Human Rights: Violations of Medical Neutrality and The Emergence of Medical Resistance


  • Siddhi Sudeshkumar Salunke University of California, San Diego


The principle of medical neutrality stipulates that during periods of armed conflict, medical services must operate unimpaired and medical facilities and personnel should remain unharmed. However, in the face of growing intrastate conflicts and civil unrest across the world, medical neutrality is frequently violated by the state as medical professionals have increasingly come under threat while working in conflict zones. This study aims to determine how the politicization of medicine affects health care and medical professionals in conflict zones. In intrastate conflicts, medicine is politicized as a target of state violence and medical professionals become political actors who favor the side of protestors against the state. In order to analyze the effects of medical neutrality violations, this study explores cases of state violence in Egypt, Palestine, Kashmir, and the United States to demonstrate the extent of direct and indirect violence by the state, its implications for health care in conflict, and the obsolescence of traditional laws of medical neutrality. It also applies Hollander and Einwohner's conceptual model of resistance to different actions by medical professionals to resist oppression in conflict zones. The paper concludes that modern medical neutrality laws are an inoperable way of guaranteeing human rights and access to health care due to the inability to hold states accountable to such laws on a domestic scale. The inefficiency of medical neutrality and subsequent violations of the policy by states has caused medical professionals to take an active political role in resisting state violence.






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