Why treat the wounded? Warrior care, military salvage, and national health

American Journal of Bioethics 8 (2):3 – 12 (2008)


Because the goal of military medicine is salvaging the wounded who can return to duty, military medical ethics cannot easily defend devoting scarce resources to those so badly injured that they cannot return to duty. Instead, arguments turn to morale and political obligation to justify care for the seriously wounded. Neither argument is satisfactory. Care for the wounded is not necessary to maintain an army's morale. Nor is there any moral or logical connection between the right to health care (a universal human right) and the duty to defend one's nation (a local political duty). Once badly wounded, soldiers enjoy the same right to medical care as any similarly ill or injured individual. National health care systems grasp this point and offer few additional health care benefits to veterans. In the United States, however, lack of universal health coverage skews the debate to focus on special entitlements for veterans without considering the health care rights that other citizens enjoy.

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