“A band of brothers” - An exploration of the range of medical ethical issues faced by British senior military clinicians on deployment to Afghanistan: A qualitative study

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Colleges, School and Institutes


Aims To identify and explore features of ethical issues that senior clinicians faced as deployed medical directors (DMDs) to the British Field Hospital in Afghanistan as well as to determine the ethical training requirements for future deployments.

Method A qualitative study in two phases conducted from November 2014 to June 2015. Phase 1 analysed 60 vignettes of cases that had generated ethical dilemmas for DMDs. Phase 2 included focus groups and an interview with 13 DMDs.

Findings Phase 1 identified working with limited resources, dual conflict of meeting both clinical and military obligations and consent of children as the most prevalent ethical challenges. Themes found in Phase 2 included sharing clinical responsibilities with clinicians from other countries and not knowing team members' ways of working, in addition to the themes from Phase 1.

Discussion This study has drawn together examples of scenarios to form a repository that will aid future training. Recommendations included undertaking ethics training together as a team before, during and after deployment which must include all nationalities who are assigned to the same operational tour, so that different ethical views can be explored beforehand.


Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of the Royal Army Medical Corps
Early online date25 Oct 2016
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 25 Oct 2016