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August 4, 1993

Physicians and the Peace Movement: Prescriptions for Hope

Author Affiliations

The Cambridge Hospital Harvard Medical School Cambridge, Mass

JAMA. 1993;270(5):645. doi:10.1001/jama.1993.03510050111042

With international and internecine conflicts increasing, physician involvement in the peace movement has never been more urgent. To chart a future role, Nick Lewer unravels our past, from the US War of Independence to the nuclear age, presenting a panorama of movements and issues, studded with succinct biographies of our inspiring activist forebears.

Physician involvement with war and peace is natural: war leads to physical and psychological trauma, increases infectious diseases, and disrupts the supporting social fabric. The premier organization, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), founded in Switzerland in 1863, treats all victims of war and "natural" disasters. ICRC's apolitical image was tarnished in the 1930s, Lewer notes, when the abuses of the Red Cross symbol by Italian and German forces in Africa and Spain prompted a Lancet editorial questioning its adherence to the principle of neutrality.1 In December 1992 ICRC stretched beyond its apolitical roots in