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Disasters. 2011 Jul;35(3):606-22. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-7717.2011.01232.x. Epub 2011 Mar 16.

Establishing moral bearings: ethics and expatriate health care professionals in humanitarian work.

Author information

  • Centre for Research on Ethics, University of Montreal, Canada. 1matthew.hunt@gmail.com


Expatriate health care professionals frequently participate in international responses to natural disasters and humanitarian emergencies. This field of practice presents important clinical, logistical and ethical challenges for clinicians. This paper considers the ethics of health care practice in humanitarian contexts. It examines features that contribute to forming the moral landscape of humanitarian work, and discusses normative guidelines and approaches that are relevant for this work. These tools and frameworks provide important ethics resources for humanitarian settings. Finally, it elaborates a set of questions that can aid health care professionals as they analyse ethical issues that they experience in the field. The proposed process can assist clinicians as they seek to establish their moral bearings in situations of ethical complexity and uncertainty. Identifying and developing ethics resources and vocabulary for clinical practice in humanitarian work will help health care professionals provide ethically sound care to patients and communities.

© 2011 The Author(s). Disasters © Overseas Development Institute, 2011.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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