World Journal of Surgery

, Volume 34, Issue 3, pp 466–470 | Cite as

Seven Sins of Humanitarian Medicine

  • David R. WellingEmail author
  • James M. Ryan
  • David G. Burris
  • Norman M. Rich


The need for humanitarian assistance throughout the world is almost unlimited. Surgeons who go on humanitarian missions are definitely engaged in a noble cause. However, not infrequently, despite the best of intentions, errors are made in attempting to help others. The following are seven areas of concern: 1. Leaving a mess behind. 2. Failing to match technology to local needs and abilities. 3. Failing of non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) to cooperate and help each other, and and accept help from military organizations. 4. Failing to have a follow-up plan. 5. Allowing politics, training, or other distracting goals to trump service, while representing the mission as “service”. 6. Going where we are not wanted, or needed and/or being poor guests. 7. Doing the right thing for the wrong reason. The goal of this report is to discuss these potential problems, with ideas presented about how we might do humanitarian missions more effectively.


Cuban Laparoscopic Adrenalectomy Wrong Reason Military Organization Local Surgeon 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The authors wish to acknowledge the teaching, mentorship, and example of Drs. David C. Wherry, J. Leonel Villavicencio, Stanley L. Minken, and Arthur L. Trask, who helped in the formation of the ideas presented in this report.


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Copyright information

© Société Internationale de Chirurgie 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • David R. Welling
    • 1
    Email author
  • James M. Ryan
    • 1
  • David G. Burris
    • 1
  • Norman M. Rich
    • 1
  1. 1.Norman M. Rich Department of SurgeryUniformed Services University of the Health SciencesBethesdaUSA

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