IRRC No. 212

The Fundamental Principles of the Red Cross (III)

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We have said that this requirement is absolute. However, in exceptional circumstances, it may be necessary to make a choice; for instance, when a doctor or nurse, for want of medicines in sufficient quantities, is only in a position to cure a certain number of patients in his care. This is frequently a tragedy for the Red Cross, comparable to that of a raft which will sink if any more castaways cling to it. Can one, in all conscience, use an oar and rap the knuckles of human beings, children perhaps, whose misfortune it is to have not arrived first ? I know of several cases where doctors have only treated the sick, wounded or starving who still had a chance of survival, leaving those for whom there was no longer any hope to die. All this represents a matter of conscience, as it is called, because the decision must be left to the individual responsible, who will reach it after deep reflection and carefully weighing the pros and cons.

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