There is a very interesting study just out in the International Journal of Health Services that reports on a survey conducted among U.S. medical students. The study sought to ascertain how much medical students know about military medical ethics. The authors of the study note that very few medical students (or Americans generally) know that in 1987 Congress authorized the Health Care Personnel Delivery System that provides a mechanism by which the President can activate a draft of civilian physicians within a matter of weeks, if there is a shortage of military medical personnel. Given that current medical students could conceivably by drafted, the authors wanted to know how much the students knew about military medical ethics. Here are some of the distressing results.
- Only 3.5% knew that they could be drafted
- Only 37.4% correctly answered that the Geneva Conventions apply regardless of whether or not one’s country has formally declared war.
- More than 37% did not know that the Geneva Conventions stipulate that it is never acceptable to deprive prisoners of war of food or water.
- More that 25% incorrectly stated the code of military medical ethics to be that they should “treat their own soldiers according to level of severity and then attend to the wounded enemy,” rather than treating the sickest first, regardless of nationality.
The study can be found here.