Skip navigation
Paperback | $30.00 Short | £20.95 | ISBN: 9780262572262 | 400 pp. | 6 x 9 in | June 2006

Instructor Resources

Bioethics and Armed Conflict

Moral Dilemmas of Medicine and War


Is medical ethics in times of armed conflict identical to medical ethics in times of peace, as the World Medical Association declares? In Bioethics and Armed Conflict, the first comprehensive study of medical ethics in conventional, unconventional, and low-intensity war, Michael Gross examines the dilemmas that arise when bioethical principles clash with military necessity—when physicians try to save lives during an endeavor dedicated to taking them—and describes both the conflicts and congruencies of military and medical ethics.

Gross describes how the principles of contemporary just war, unlike those of medical ethics, often go beyond the welfare of the individual to consider the collective interests of combatants and noncombatants and the general interests of the state. Military necessity plays havoc with such patients' rights as the right to life, the right to medical care, informed consent, confidentiality, and the right to die. The principles of triage in battle conditions dictate not need-based treatment but the distribution of resources that will return the greatest number of soldiers to active duty. And unconventional warfare, including current "wars" on terrorism, challenges the traditional concept of medical neutrality as physicians who have sworn to "do no harm" are called upon to lend their expertise to "interrogational" torture or to the development of biological or chemical weapons. Difficult dilemmas inevitably arise during armed conflict, and medicine, Gross concludes, is not above the fray. Medical ethics in time of war cannot be identical to medical ethics in peacetime.


"Best book of the year" selection in military, science, and technology, Lawrence D. Freedman, Foreign Affairs


"In this erudite and most engaging book, Michael Gross probes, with singular depth and breadth, the philosophical underpinnings of ethical problems in military medicine, especially since 9/11. His topics range from doctors' 'higher calling' to the use of interrogational torture; his sources, from Crito to Robert J. Lifton. Gross's incisive perspectives are 'must thinking' for all those wanting to have credible views on these issues."
Edmund G. Howe, III, Professor of Psychiatry and Director, Programs in Medical Ethics, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences
"Bioethics and Armed Conflict is a trenchant, unflinching, and in many ways highly original analysis of some of the most complex problems in human affairs. Perhaps even more impressive, Michael Gross opens up new dimensions for bioethical debate that will keep future scholars busy for a long, long time."—Jonathan D. Moreno, Director, Center for Biomedical Ethics, University of Virginia
"Michael Gross is one of the few authors who have looked at the medical ethics of war. He surveys this alien landscape, points out where the battles will be fought, and proposes positions to hold. His map will be of great value to medical ethicists, military clinicians, and policymakers."
Steven H. Miles, M.D., Professor of Medicine, Center for Bioethics, University of Minnesota
"This book has the potential to become a scholarly classic. The work is extremely well-researched and original, and this is the most complete treatment of the subject matter with which I am familiar."
Malham Wakin, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, U. S. Air Force Academy