Ethics beyond borders : how Canadian health professionals experience ethics in humanitarian assistance and development work


Canadian health professionals are involved in humanitarian assistance and development work in many regions of the world. They participate in primary health care, immunization campaigns, feeding programs, rehabilitation and hospital-based care. In the course of their work clinicians are frequently exposed to complex ethical issues. This thesis examines how health workers experience ethics in the course of humanitarian assistance and development work. A qualitative study was conducted to consider this question. Five core themes emerged from the data including experiencing a tension between respecting local customs and imposing values, knowing how to respond when basic care is impossible, addressing differing understandings of health and illness, questions of identity for health workers, and issues of trust and distrust. Recommendations are made for standards and organizational strategies that could help aid agencies better support and equip their staff as they respond to ethical issues.



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