September 27, 2022

How Doctors without Borders exposed chemical weapons in Syria

Doctors in Syria face ethical dilemmas.

When Secretary of State John Kerry announced that the US had evidence of chemical weapons use in Syria, he was relying heavily on information from Doctors Without Borders. This information came close to never being released. As the New York Times revealed this week, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) officials laboured over whether to publish a statement, considering that doctors were already being targeted by the Syrian army.

However, after convening a conference to debate the matter, it was eventually decided that the information was “too big” and “too credible” to be withheld.

Stephen Morrison, a global health expert at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, has praised MSF for publishing the statement: “It was very risky, and a tough call, and things could have gotten ugly for them.”

However, some organisations are wary of overstepping their role of providing medical care. The International Red Cross, for example, has a policy of avoiding partisanship. Like many other organisations, they are concerned that political involvement could potential prevent them from carrying out their work in a country. 

Xavier Symons
Creative commons
ethics of war