May 22, 2022

Munich clinic spurns Russian and Belarus patients

According to the Geneva Convention, doctors should treat equally all non-comabtant patients, even if they are on the side of the enemy. How easy it is, though, to forget about these obligations when people are in the fever of war.

For instance, far from the front lines of the war between Ukraine and Russia, Iatros Clinic in Munich released a letter on social media that it would turn away patients from Russia and Byelorussia. Its specialty is cosmetic surgery:

We strongly condemn the invasion of the Russian army with the help of the Belarusian government. Russia is not only attacking Ukraine militarily without any justification; this country is threatening Europe; this country is threatening our freedom and democracy.  

Therefore, from now on and until further notice, we will not accept Russian and Belarusian citizens. … There will be no exceptions.

Just the Covid-19 virus or Mr. Putin makes no exceptions, we will make no exceptions … Our solidarity is with the Ukrainian people and our measures are the consequences of the military invasion of the Russian army!

There was an outcry at this apparent discrimination. A typical Facebook comment was: “All our citizens have the same rights. Everyone has the same, untouchable dignity. Guaranteed by the basic law. There are no first or second class people!”

The clinic apologised and tried to clarify its decision.

In the past, among our patients, there were also very powerful people from the Russian social elite … It seemed to us the idea of Russian “oligarchs” making money, while in Ukraine civilians are being killed wrongly. This is the message we wanted to convey. 

Looking back, we realize that the formulation was more than unfortunate, was rightly criticized and completely diverted from what we actually wanted to say. 

We deeply regret this … In the future, we will continue to treat everyone equally – regardless of their origin and nationality, of course, including Russian and Belarusian patients without reservation.

All wars create a tension between the honourable practice of medicine and political hostility. Hopefully such conflicts will not arise on the front lines of the war with wounded citizens of either side.