Moral dilemmas faced by hospitals in time of war: the Rambam Medical Center during the Second Lebanon War
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Rambam Medical Center, the only tertiary care center and largest hospital in northern Israel, was subjected to continuous rocket attacks in 2006. This extreme situation posed serious and unprecedented ethical dilemmas to the hospital management. An ambiguous situation arose that required routine patient care in a tertiary modern hospital together with implementation of emergency measures while under direct fire. The physicians responsible for hospital management at that time share some of the moral dilemmas faced, the policy they chose to follow, and offer a retrospective critical reflection in this paper. The hospital’s first priority was defined as delivery of emergency surgical and medical services to the wounded from the battlefields and home front, while concomitantly providing the civilian population with all elective medical and surgical services. The need for acute medical service was even more apparent as the situation of conflict led to closure of many ambulatory clinics, while urgent or planned medical care such as open heart surgery and chemotherapy continued. The hospital management took actions to minimize risks to patients, staff, and visitors during the ongoing attacks. Wards were relocated to unused underground spaces and corridors. However due to the shortage of shielded spaces, not all wards and patients could be relocated to safer areas. Modern warfare will most likely continue to involve civilian populations and institutes, blurring the division between peaceful high-tech medicine and the rough battlefront. Hospitals in high war-risk areas must be prepared to function and deliver treatment while under fire or facing similar threats.
KeywordsEthics of healthcare management Mass casualty incidents Medical ethics at war
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