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Pervasive violence against hospitals, patients, doctors, and other health workers has become a horrifically common feature of modern war. These relentless attacks destroy lives and the capacity of health systems to tend to those in need. Inaction to stop this violence undermines long-standing values and laws designed to ensure that sick and wounded people receive care.
Leonard Rubenstein—a human rights lawyer who has investigated atrocities against health workers around the world—offers a gripping and powerful account of the dangers health workers face during conflict and the legal, political, and moral struggle to protect them. He shares the stories of people who have been attacked while seeking to serve patients under dire circumstances: health workers in the forests of eastern Myanmar seeking to serve oppressed ethnic communities; surgeons in Syria operating as their hospitals are bombed; emergency responders in Gaza attempting to avoid gunfire as they rescue the wounded; and many others. Rubenstein reveals why violence against health care takes place with impunity, detailing how political and military leaders evade their obligations, improperly portray violence as legitimate, and fail to hold perpetrators to account.
Bringing together extensive research, firsthand experience, and compelling personal stories, Perilous Medicine also offers a path forward, detailing the lessons the international community needs to learn to protect people already suffering in war and those on the front lines of health care in conflict-ridden places around the world.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Leonard Rubenstein is professor and director of the Program on Human Rights and Health in Conflict at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. He was previously president of Physicians for Human Rights and is a recognized global expert on violence against health care.
"Providing health care in contact zones often means delivering such care in the face of looting, fires, shelling, bombing, and plague. Rubenstein takes a deep dive in answering why violence against health care seems to be on the rise. Perilous Medicine is a well-documented series of case studies on such tragic attacks. This colossal work paradoxically demonstrates that repeated occurrences of attacks on health care have normalized the abnormal. At the crux of matter, hospitals in war zones remain the last patch of humanity in a world of utter chaos."
--Joanne Liu, former president of Doctors Without Borders