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War Hospital

In April 1992, a handful of young physicians, not one of them a surgeon, was trapped along with 50,000 men, women, and children in the embattled enclave of Srebrenica, Bosnia-Herzegovina. The war zone spawned the most intense professional, ethical, and personal predicaments these physicians ever faced. Drawing on extensive interviews, documents, and recorded materials she collected over four and a half years, physician-journalist Sheri Fink tells the harrowing-and ultimately enlightening-experiences of three characters: an idealistic physician from Doctors without Borders, who hopes that interposition of international physicians will help prevent a massacre; an aspiring Bosnian surgeon willing to walk through minefields to reach the civilian wounded; and a Serb doctor on the opposite side of the front line with the army that is intent on destroying his former colleagues. With limited resources and a makeshift hospital overflowing with patients, how can these doctors decide who to save and who to let die? Will their duty to treat patients come into conflict with their own struggle to survive? And are there times when medical and humanitarian aid ironically prolong war and human suffering rather than helping to relieve it?
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About the Author

Sheri Fink is a physician and writer based in New York who has worked with the humanitarian aid organization International Medical Corps in conflict and disaster zones around the world. She received her M.D. and Ph.D. from Stanford University, undertook additional training in emergency medicine at Harvard, and has worked in the Balkans, the north Caucasus, southern Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia.


The common thread of these two books is doctors in war. Fink's book is set against the Bosnia-Herzegovina conflict, in the besieged city of Srebrenica, and its cast of characters are the young doctors (no surgeons) and other health personnel and their patients who endured every imaginable affliction of modern war in brutal conditions similar to those suffered by soldiers during the U.S. Civil War. Fink, a New York-based physician and writer who has worked in the Balkans, Africa, and Iraq, confronts the ethics of war and medicine, asking whether medical neutrality is possible in the face of atrocities, genocide, and ethnic cleansing. For barbarism and cruelty, Stalin's deportation of the Chechens during the 1940s is unmatched. Baiev, a refugee physician presently living in Boston, recounts how the sufferings of the Chechens continue today since they began their quest for independence from the former Soviet Union. Like Fink, Baiev presents readers with the ethical dilemmas confronting a doctor in war. In relating his personal experiences, Baiev reveals how practicing altruistic medical humanitarianism can place the doctor in jeopardy of being seen as a combatant by both friend and foe as he treats all who are in need. Although Baiev's memoir is full of the horrors of war, he devotes much of his book to describing the unique culture of Chechnya and its people. While both books graphically depict war and its effects (terrible wounds, amputations, and the lack of medications and instruments in bombed-out hospital facilities as well as the shelling, looting, rape, and killings sustained by civilians), Fink's book is the preferred choice because of her unusually impressive documentation and stylistic superiority. Readers with particular interests in Chechnya may prefer Baiev's memoir. Both prove that war indeed is hell.-James Swanton, Harlem Hosp. Lib., New York Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

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