Medicine and Human Rights
Abuse of human rights is a worldwide problem. Recent accounts of detainee abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and the humanitarian crisis in Darfur, Sudan remind us that that we have a long way to go before the aspirations of "human rights" declarations, conventions, and treaties are fully realized. Physicians have a special responsibility to be defenders of human rights, one that is grounded in a heritage of caring for the sick and suffering. Physicians are bound by a principle of medical neutrality which requires them to treat the wounded and injured whether they are friend or enemy. Because of their social standing, when physicians speak, people listen, and thus they must speak up for people who have no voice and hold accountable those who commit human rights abuses.