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The Health Effects of Economic Sanctions and Embargoes: The Role of Health Professionals

Karine Morin, LLM; Steven H. Miles, MD, Ethics and Human Rights Committee*
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Ann Intern Med. 2000;132(2):158-161. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-132-2-200001180-00013
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As a widely used tool of foreign policy, economic sanctions take many forms. They include mandating trade restrictions (for example, limiting imports from or exports to a sanctioned nation), freezing bank accounts, limiting international travel to and from an area, imposing additional tariffs, and exerting other pressures that are intended to slow key economic activities. Since the end of the Cold War, as the global market has expanded, many countries and the United Nations have increasingly used economic sanctions instead of military intervention to compel nations to end civil or extraterritorial war or to reduce abuse of human rights. Similarly, the United States has attempted to influence international governments' domestic policies by using other economic means, such as relating “most favored nation” trading status to a country's human rights record or prohibiting the import of goods from countries in which illegal child labor is widespread.

Repercussions from these measures influence a country's economic development and, therefore, can also affect the overall welfare of a nation's population. In contrast to war's easily observable casualties, the apparently nonviolent consequences of economic intervention seem like an acceptable alternative. However, recent reports suggest that economic sanctions can seriously harm the health of persons who live in targeted nations. For this reason, the American College of Physicians-American Society of Internal Medicine has undertaken this examination of physicians' roles in addressing the health effects of economic sanctions.

*Members of the Ethics and Human Rights Committee were Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD (chair); Joanne Lynn, MD; Richard J. Carroll, MD; David A. Fleming, MD; Steven H. Miles, MD; Gail J. Povar, MD; Vincent Herrin, MD; James A. Tulsky, MD; Alan L. Gordon, MD; Siang Y. Tan, MD; and Lee J. Dunn Jr., JD, LLM. Approved by the Board of Regents on 7 February 1999.





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