Ethical issues of medical missions: the clinicians' view

HEC Forum. 2011 Jun;23(2):105-13. doi: 10.1007/s10730-011-9154-9.


Surgery is an important part of health care worldwide. Without access to surgical treatments, morbidity and mortality increase. Access to surgical treatment is a significant problem in global public health because surgical services are not equally distributed in the world. There is a disproportionate scarcity of surgical access in low-income countries. There are many charitable organizations around the world that sponsor surgical missions to under served nations. One such organization is Operation Smile International, a group with which both authors have volunteered. This paper will describe the purpose and processes involved in Operation Smile and identify some of the key ethical issues that arise in short term medical volunteer work highlighting the importance of sustainability.

MeSH terms

  • Cleft Lip / surgery
  • Cleft Palate / surgery
  • Developing Countries
  • General Surgery
  • Health Personnel / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Informed Consent
  • Mass Screening
  • Medical Missions / ethics*
  • Medical Missions / organization & administration