Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry

, Volume 40, Issue 2, pp 223–241 | Cite as

Egypt’s Popular Uprising and the Stakes of Medical Neutrality

  • Sherine F. HamdyEmail author
  • Soha Bayoumi
Original Paper


Amidst the recent political uprisings in the Arab region, physicians and other healthcare workers have found themselves in the crossfire. This paper focuses on Egypt’s doctors, paying special attention to how many have both appealed to and practiced medical neutrality as its own potent and contested political stance, particularly since the period of military rule following Mubarak’s removal from power. Our paper draws on interviews with physicians who served as volunteers in the field hospitals in the days of unrest and violence, and with others who played a major role in documenting protesters’ injuries, police brutality, and other forms of state violence against unarmed citizens. Based on interviews with doctors who belong to organizations such as “Tahrir Doctors” and “Doctors Without Rights,” our paper reveals how these doctors’ commitment to professional ethics put them at odds with the orders of military personnel, rendering their appeal to “medical neutrality” a weighty political act in and of itself.


Medical neutrality Medical ethics Doctors Arab Spring Egypt Political conflict 



We presented earlier versions of this paper at the CUNY Graduate Center’s Workshop on “Delimiting Egypt: Nationality, Land, and Bodies,” at Harvard’s Science, Technology, and Society Circle, and at Brown University’s “Clinic in Crisis” Symposium. We would like to thank all the participants and organizers for their helpful questions and comments. Sherine Hamdy’s research was supported by the Greenwall Foundation Faculty Scholar Program in Bioethics and by a Watson Institute Collaborative Grant from Brown University. We would also like to thank two anonymous reviewers for their helpful feedback on an earlier version.


This study was funded by the Greenwall Faculty Scholars Program in Bioethics and by a collaborative grant from the Watson Institute at Brown University.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

Sherine Hamdy and Soha Bayoumi declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in this study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyBrown UniversityProvidenceUSA
  2. 2.Department of the History of ScienceHarvard UniversityCambridgeUSA

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