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Medical Ethics in the Military Context – a Challenge for Research and Teaching

By Rupert Dirk Fischer

Medics in the military have always faced special ethical challenges. This “overlapping zone of ethical reflection” is now commonly referred to as military medical ethics. In 2016, a Teaching and Research Unit for Military Medical Ethics (LFWME) for this field of Wehrmedizinethik was set up at the Bundeswehr Medical Academy in Munich. Dirk Fischer starts by describing the various tasks of the LFWME, which range from basic research to critical participation in international discourse on military medical ethics. He also cites a number of current key issues, including moral injury as a specific dimension of post-traumatic stress disorder. Fischer explains how successfully coping with the challenges of a soldier’s role requires a triad of physical, mental and moral fitness. To ensure a necessary and well founded ethical education, he argues for an “ethics of teaching and learning”. This implies a scientific grounding, competent staff and high-quality educational offering, together with an increased awareness of ethical issues and problems and the teaching of role-specific fields of applied ethics. The LFWME’s proposed three-pronged training concept for the medical service can act as a paradigm for the other branches of the armed forces. Ultimately ethical education should be viewed as a lifelong learning process, with continuous ongoing and advanced training offerings. The military chaplaincy’s offerings play a central role in this context.

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