The Impact of the Duty to Obey Orders in Relation to Medical Care in the Military

  • Nikki ColemanEmail author
Part of the Military and Humanitarian Health Ethics book series (MHHE)


Obedience as a defining feature of the military extends from the battlefield to the garrison and beyond. In many countries military personnel must not only obey the orders of their commanding officer on the battlefield, but also the orders of their military doctor providing routine medical care back “home”. The requirement for individual soldiers to obey the orders of their military doctor and not seek medical care outside the military health system ensures an efficient organisation that is able to ensure operational effectiveness, however it goes against the basic bio-ethical principle of autonomy in health care.

Compounding the effect of the impact on the lack of autonomy in regards to their health care decisions is the fact that military personnel are often used in medical research. The requirement to obey orders therefore has the potential to make soldiers vulnerable to abuse in regards to experimentation.

This chapter will discuss the ethical issues relating to the duty to obey orders and the impact that this has on military personnel in relation to their health care, particularly when they are involved in medical experimentation.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of New South Wales Canberra SpaceCanberraAustralia
  2. 2.Chaplaincy DepartmentRoyal Australian Air ForceCanberraAustralia
  3. 3.Inamori International Center for Ethics and ExcellenceCase Western Reserve UniversityClevelandUSA

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