The surge in murders of polio vaccination workers in Pakistan has made headlines this year, but little attention has been devoted to the ethical issues surrounding the global health impact of current counterterrorism policy and practice. An essay in the Hastings Center Report reviews the range of harms to population health traceable to counterterrorism operations.
It also identifies concerns involving moral agency and responsibility specifically of humanitarian health workers, military medical personnel, and national security officials and operatives and it highlights policy issues.
The authors describe a broad trend in the war on terror: "the militarization of health care," in which medicine is incorporated into warfare. As an example, they cite the covert operation involving a vaccination program that led to the killing of Osama bin Laden, which contributed to fear and distrust among populations in need of health services.
"Counterterrorism frameworks promulgated by the United States and adopted by other countries are also implicated in undermining population health," write the authors, Lisa Eckenwiler, associate professor of philosophy and health administration and policy at George Mason University, and Matthew Hunt, an assistant professor in the School of Physical and Occupational Therapy of McGill University. "Policies that prohibit a wide range of activities regarded as providing material support to terrorists have adversely affected health program and funding."
Counterterrorism-related harms also exacerbate global health inequities. "Populations in places like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen already vulnerable by global health standards are more precariously positioned as a result of the war on terror," the authors write.
The authors identify profound moral distress and fear among humanitarian and health workers who are
|Contact: Susan Gilbert|
The Hastings Center