How have medicine and war/political conflict shaped each other?
“War is the only proper school for surgeons,” the Ancient Greek physician, Hippocrates, is quoted to have said. This saying has been used to show how medicine and war have been thought for millennia to shape each. Medicine has played a major role in situations of political conflict, ever since human societies engaged in war and started elaborating “just war doctrines,” that determine how belligerent parties should conduct war, as an attempt to “civilize” war and mitigate its scourges.
Through an investigation of case studies from the modern and contemporary world, this course will examine the role played by medicine in situations of political conflict, as well as the role played by war and humanitarian crises in the history of medical thought and practice. It will explore how medical knowledge and expertise have been deployed in situations of political violence or tumult and will ponder some of the ethical dilemmas faced by medical professionals in those contexts. Covering cases ranging from surgery in the American Civil War to the provision of medical care in the Syrian refugee crisis, some of the themes discussed will include biomedical ethics in armed conflict, torture, trauma, contagion, and medical innovation in conflict contexts.