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Humanitarian Healthcare Ethics is a place to find practical and educational material for humanitarian healthcare workers as well as students and scholars of humanitarian healthcare ethics. The website developed out of empirical research on the ethical dilemmas faced by humanitarian healthcare professionals working in humanitarian crises, disasters or areas of extreme poverty.

If you want to contribute to the website or provide comments please send us your feedback

Get the RSS feed or bookmark this page as it is updated regularly. 


Monday, May 4, 2015

HumEthNet Member Dr. Lynda Redwood-Cambell comments on the importance of coordination in disaster response action 









How past disasters will aid relief efforts in earthquake-ravaged Nepal




Thursday, April 23, 2015

The unwelcome return of development porn

by John Hilary

For 35 years now, there has been a raging debate within international NGO circles around the use of images of starving black children in fundraising materials. One seminal piece by Jorgen Lissner in the New Internationalist accused aid agencies of ‘social pornography’ in stripping individual children of their dignity and presenting them to the Western viewer as helpless objects isolated from any social or historical context, and called for an end to the racist distortion that this perpetuated in people’s conception of the majority world.

Lissner also noted that the use of such pictures was already considered unacceptable when fundraising for children’s charities at home. How could aid agencies get away with such double standards just because their images depicted children from other parts of the world?

The impact of the article was far-reaching. By the end of the decade, the General Assembly of European NGOs had adopted a code of conduct which instructed all aid agencies to refrain from using ‘pathetic images’ or ‘images which fuel prejudice’ in their depiction of the majority world. An updated code adopted in 2007 affirmed that all future communications by international development NGOs must be based on core values of human dignity, respect and truthfulness. Similar guidelines have been introduced in other countries, including Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

READ MORE at the HHE Picturing Humanitarian Healthcare BLOG.

Click here for an example & discussion of a different style of photography referencing crises and suffering. 



Friday, March 27, 2015

On the Importance of Human Connection: Fear, Ebola, and Security




by Larissa Fast

Cross-posted with Political Violence at a Glance


This week marks the first anniversary of the World Health Organization (WHO) declaration of an Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak in West Africa. A healthcare worker infected with Ebola while volunteering in Sierra Leone arrived in the US earlier this month. Another ten of this unnamed health worker’s colleagues were also evacuated to the US for monitoring after exposure to the virus.

The muted media reaction to this latest Ebola case is vastly different than last fall, when the outbreak was at its peak and the first case of Ebola arrived on North American shores. Hysteria mounted, tweets mentioning Ebola skyrocketed, and pictures of people in clinics and in western airports wearing various types of protective gear appeared in the media. Fear of Ebola was prominent and, somewhat like the disease itself, seemingly contagious. Many, notably politicians, spread disinformation while others pleaded for common sense. Fear spreads, and it sells, particularly in relation to a disease that spreads by human contact and bodily fluids. Until the present outbreak reached North American shores, the disease was confined to rural parts of Africa.

Ebola preys upon our darkest imaginations. Why? First, Ebola evokes otherness and its close companion, fear. Apart from infectious disease experts, some aid workers, and those who watched the movie Contagion, Ebola was unknown locally, in the affected countries, and globally. It was an “African disease.” Its symptoms, which include excessive bleeding, are frightening. Its high fatality rate suggested that contracting Ebola was equivalent to being handed a death sentence. Those suffering from Ebola and those who have recovered from it are often stigmatized. Commentators have compared the fearful reaction to Ebola to the early days of the AIDS epidemic (see here and here), and analyzed Ebola in relation to its status as a “global security threat.”

Fear of Ebola is also linked to its mundaneness. Ebola can be transmitted via the ordinary, daily actions offering affection or even by brief contact that involves the transmission of bodily fluids. Direct touch escalates the risk of transmission. To avoid contagion, those caring for people with Ebola wear personal protective equipment (PPE). Dressed in PPE, health workers resemble aliens, with goggles masking their faces and gloves preventing direct contact. PPE separates the caregiver from the patient and lowers the risk. Yet touch is fundamental to our interactions and connection as human beings.

It is precisely the inability to physically and directly touch and care for those suffering from Ebola that makes it one of the most challenging diseases for family members and healthcare workers, and what renders it so devastating to families and communities. Reports from the worst Ebola-affected countries have highlighted changes in the ways people relate. Where once people greeted each other with enthusiastic kisses and embraces, now they bow, bump elbows, or show respect by placing their hands over their hearts.





Thursday, March 12, 2015

Visit ALNAP for a blog on Nicarraguans' perceptions of humanitarian medical missions by HumEthNet's Elysée Nouvet.




Monday, March 2, 2015

The latest edition of Reflections is here.


Monday, February 23, 2015

Now Available -

A report on a qualitative study supported by the Humanitarian Healthcare Ethics Research Consortium,

by Elysée NouvetElizabeth Chan, and Lisa Schwartz, McMaster University 

English version: BPREP: Beneficiary perspectives on the performance of humanitarian healthcare missions in Nicaragua


Spanish version: Perspectivas de los beneficiarios sobre el desempeño de las brigadas de atención médica Humanitaria en Nicaragüa: El estudio BPREP nicaragüense.




Monday, January 12, 2015

Come out on Wednesday, January 14 for a timely lecture on Ethics and Ebola:

McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, Canada, 4:30-6:00pm, MCDL 3020.



Monday, January 5, 2015

HumEthNet team member, Lynda Redwood-Campbell, featured in article that revisits her experiences in the humanitarian efforts that followed the 2004 tsunami.



Tuesday, December 23, 2014



Thursday, November 27, 2014

5th Annual Workshop on Military Medical Ethics of the

International Committee of Military Medicine

For the fifth time, the ICMM Reference Centre for Education on IHL and Ethics together with the Medical Services Directorate of the Swiss Armed Forces and the Center for Ethics of Zurich University organise their annual joint Workshop on Military Medical Ethics. It will take place from 7-9 May 2015 at Forum Lilienberg in Ermatingen/ Switzerland.

The main topic for the 2015 workshop will be Ethics in Epidemics (Ebola), with a special focus on the involvement of military actors. Thus, we invite papers on topics addressing general ethical questions faced during epidemics such as Ebola, as well as from the list of topics below.

  • The duty to treat
  • Ethical aspects of the use of experimental treatment and research during epidemics
  • Ethical justifications for infection management and containment measures such as forced treatment, and quarantine
  • Presentation of recent case reports or case studies
  • The involvement of military actors
  • Principles associated with the allocation of scarce or limited resources
Any other topics of relevance for the topic and more generally on military medical ethics are also welcome as there might be an open session on one day.

Deadline for Proposals
Please send your paper proposals/ abstracts together with a short bibliography via email to  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  no later than 11th January 2015.
You will be notified until the end of January 2015 whether your paper has been accepted. In that case, we will invite you as a speaker to our workshop and cover the conference fee and your travel expenses.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014



Monday, October 27, 2014


Reflections, vol.2 no.2, Autumn.


Thursday, October 16, 2014

NEW PUBLICATION from HumEthNet member John Pringle. 

The Unprecedented Lead-Poisoning Outbreak: Ethical Issues in a Troubling Broader Context.

Public Health Ethics.    First published online: September 11, 2014  




























A young boy sits on a stack of ore sacks in the mining processing site in Bagega village.



Tuesday, September 16, 2014


Saving The Enemy? Medical Ethics in Conflict

Symposium, October 6 in Munich




Thursday, September 4, 2014

The Humanitarian Health Ethics Analysis Tool: HHEAT Handbook is now available to download online.



The HHEAT is an ethical analysis tool designed to help humanitarian healthcare workers make ethical decisions. It consists of 3 components: (1) a summary card highlighting key questions, (2) a handbook providing an overview of the tool, and (3) a worksheet for recording the decision-making process. The tool was inspired by research examining ethical challenges and moral distress experienced by humanitarian workers. The HHEAT has been tested and validated by humanitarian workers and experts from the fields of humanitarian medicine and nursing, as well as applied ethics. 





Monday, August 18, 2014

Caution called for in the face of EBOLA interventions

Recently, hhe's Lisa's Schwartz was asked to comment on the ethics of pursuing experimental treatment and prevention interventions in relation to the recent Ebola outbreak. Listen to her interview on CBC Hamilton and read her comments on Impact Ethics blog from the Novel Tech Ethics research team in the Facutly of Medicine at Dalhousie University (Halifax, Canada).  


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Participants wanted!

Get involved in a new study:Investigating Researchers' Experience of Ethics in Post-Disaster Research 





Thursday, July 24, 2014

Case Study: Co-opting of Aid Organizations

Case studies are available on the hhe website for personal or group use.  If you cannot find a case reflective of a situation you have encountered or if you have a case you would like to share with others in this way, please contact This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .
Setting: A remote health clinic in the Horn of Africa
Scenario: An international med
ical NGO is staffing a health clinic in a remote village located near a large-scale agriculture enterprise operated by a multinational corporation. Many of the clinic's patients are migrant workers who have come to the region seeking work at the commercial farm.




Monday, July 7, 2014

The Humanitarian Health Ethics website was recenlty cited in Dr. Kirsten Patrick's contribution to the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) blog:

Voluntourism - Call it a spade and use it carefully 



Monday, June 9, 2014

Get involved!

General invitation for participation in an interdisciplinary, qualitative research study, Ethics in Humanitarian Healthcare Practice and Policy During Acute Crisis Response in Lower and Middle Income Countries.




Tuesday, June 3, 2014

World Health Assembly's recent look at Health Care Under Attack

by Kacper Niburski, hhe contributor

Health can bridge the political. At its core, it is a fundamental cry of the humanity in all of us. Disease does not discriminate nor does sickness pledge partisanships. Only we do.

The sixty-seventh World Health Assembly, housed by the WHO and the United Nations Foundation, focused on this mutual, worldwide aspiration for health as both a governmental tool and an individual right. Attended by delegates from all WHO member states, the conference housed technical briefings, debates, and discussions surrounding global health issues like nutrition, universal health coverage, patient’s rights, and non-communicable diseases.

Underscoring the majority of these topics was the growing concern of the rising incidence of attacks on health care workers. On the World Health+SocialGood channel – an online platform developed by the WHO and UN to bring about beneficial change via social media – Christy Feig, Director of Communication at the WHO, led two different interviews that elaborated on the Technical Briefing, “Health Care Under Attack: A Call for Action”. Among those interviewed were Ms. Valerie Amos, The Under-Secretary-General and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Dr. Rudi Coninx, Coordinator of Emergency Risk Management and Humanitarian Response, Dr. Rick Brennan, Director for Emergency Response at the WHO, and Pierre Gentile, Head of Health Care in Danger Project at the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).



Thursday, May 22, 2014

Open letter by researchers from the EU-funded COST Action project on ethical issues in disasters - Refugees and the EU: Human dignity is at stake

Syrian refugee camp on the Turkish border for displaces people of the Syrian civil war, Sept. 2012. Source.


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Live-streaming event, Wednesday, May 21, 2014:

67thWorld Health Assembly 

WHA Technical Briefing: “ Health Care Under Attack: A Call for Action”

There will be interpretation in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish

Attacks on health-care workers and facilities are increasing, in both conflict and non-conflict settings. The targeting of health-care workers and facilities has grave consequences for the delivery of care and the right to health in such settings.

The objective of the briefing is to raise awareness of the scale and nature of attacks on health care, to affirm the basic principles of the sanctity of health care and the right to health, and to share views from national as well as international perspectives.

The panel discussion will include representatives of Member States as well as representatives from

WHO (Dr. Bruce Aylward, Dr. Ala Alwan),

OCHA (Ms Valerie Amos),

ICRC (Mr. Peter Maurer)




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