Seven sins of humanitarian medicine

David R. Welling, James M. Ryan, David G. Burris, Norman M. Rich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

120 Scopus citations


The need for humanitarian assistance throughout the world is almost unlimited. Surgeons who go on humanitarian missions are definitely engaged in a noble cause. However, not infrequently, despite the best of intentions, errors are made in attempting to help others. The following are seven areas of concern: 1. Leaving a mess behind. 2. Failing to match technology to local needs and abilities. 3. Failing of non-governmental organizations (NGO's) to cooperate and help each other, and and accept help from military organizations. 4. Failing to have a follow-up plan. 5. Allowing politics, training, or other distracting goals to trump service, while representing the mission as "service". 6. Going where we are not wanted, or needed and/or being poor guests. 7. Doing the right thing for the wrong reason. The goal of this report is to discuss these potential problems, with ideas presented about how we might do humanitarian missions more effectively.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)466-470
Number of pages5
JournalWorld Journal of Surgery
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2010
Externally publishedYes


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