A physician's meditation on war: Historical examples and responsibilities

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Do physicians have a moral obligation to oppose war? Historical examples suggest the conundrum associated with dealing with that issue. During the First World War some 16,000 men were identified as Conscientious Objectors in England. Conspicuously absent from these men were any physicians. Historical Examples: William Osler (1849–1919) put on a public face of supporting the War effort, yet he and his wife Grace worried privately about the possibility of their son, Revere, participating. With the loss of Revere to the War, Osler's attitude towards war changed dramatically and he bemoaned the cost associated with war and questioned whether Science would be the salvation or the ruin of mankind. Several of Osler's contemporaries took pacifist stances against war. Contemporary Perspective: Contemporarily, how should physicians project their authority in a world still aflame with the possibility of war? This paper will provide contemporary thoughts on the issue and provide insight into the dilemmas faced by physicians and war.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number100939
JournalEthics, Medicine and Public Health
StatePublished - Dec 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • Pacificists physicians against nuclear war
  • Peace movements
  • Physicians and war
  • WWI
  • William Osler

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy


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