2004
Volume 111, Issue 4
  • ISSN: 0002-5275
  • E-ISSN: 2352-1244

Abstract

Abstract

During the 1980s, the heightening of tensions between and the Eastern Bloc motivated thousands of physicians to voice concerns about the medical consequences of a nuclear war. It seemed certain that such a conflict, extending to the major civilian centers and industrial areas of the protagonists, would see millions of casualties engulfing the health care systems. These gloomy predictions were coupled with the prevalent idea that nuclear war is immoral and physicians have a special responsibility to prevent it. Although contested by a majority of physicians, the medical movement against nuclear weapons found more support than ever before. In the Netherlands this is explained by (1) the intensity of the public debate, (2) the medicalization of the subject and (3) the compulsory registration of all physicians for Civil Defense plans. These factors motivated one third of all Dutch physicians to openly refuse cooperation with Civil Defense authorities. The article concludes that fear of an uncontrollable disaster put an emphasis on the ethics of consequentialism. This encouraged physicians to take political action and stress the importance of social responsibility in medicine.

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