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close this bookThe Medical Profession and the Effects of Weapons - Report of the Symposium (International Committee of the Red Cross , 1996, 62 p.)
close this folder4. The Symposium
View the document4.1 Programme
View the document4.2 Opening remarks
View the document4.3 Presentations
View the document4.4 Mission statement
Open this folder and view contents4.5 Working groups
View the document4.6 Conclusions

4.6 Conclusions

The Symposium, while expressing the wish that all disputes could be settled by non-violent means, recognized that the medical profession had an important role to play in limiting the suffering caused by weapons.

It also recognized that the world was witnessing an epidemic of the effects of weapons.

The participants agreed that to study and communicate the effects on health of weapons both present and future was primarily the responsibility of the medical profession. The subject deserved further attention because:

- the global epidemic of the effects of weapons should be a viewed as a public health issue;

- the effects of weapons on the health of individuals, groups and societies are measurable;

- discussion of the effects of weapons on health provide an objective means of communication and a common language among doctors, lawyers, scientists and military decision-makers;

- weapons of the future should be assessed in terms of their effects on health;

- abuse of knowledge of human genes and genetic engineering could lead to the development of weapons whose effects are race-specific;

- doctors documenting or researching the effects of weapons could be faced with an ethical dilemma which was as yet undefined;

The Symposium recognized that documentation of the effects of weapons on health is essential to generate public conscience which in turn influences political decision-making and international law relating to weapons.

The participants agreed that if progress was to be made, the effects of weapons on health must come to be accepted as a legitimate field of study by their peers. Using credible, professional channels, the effort should be co-ordinated in three particular areas:


The effects of weapons on individual and public health must be systematically recorded, analysed and published so as to build up a significant body of evidence to support arguments for control of the design, transfer and use of weapons.


The effects of weapons on health must be classified, and a universal metric developed, so that the legality of weapons can be assessed in an objective, non-partisan manner. An important

distinction should be made between such an assessment and judging whether or not a weapon or means of warfare was “acceptable.”


Amongst professionals and the general public alike, there is an urgent need to reconcile common perceptions of violence using weapons with the realities of modern war. Only with an informed public opinion should decisions regarding the legality of weapons be made. Incorporation of the subject into educational agendas is seen as an important part of this strategy.

The recommendations of the Symposium, as outlined in the Executive Summary of this report, reflect these conclusions and identify specific action to sustain the momentum created by the Symposium.