What is Big Think?  

We are Big Idea Hunters…

We live in a time of information abundance, which far too many of us see as information overload. With the sum total of human knowledge, past and present, at our fingertips, we’re faced with a crisis of attention: which ideas should we engage with, and why? Big Think is an evolving roadmap to the best thinking on the planet — the ideas that can help you think flexibly and act decisively in a multivariate world.

A word about Big Ideas and Themes — The architecture of Big Think

Big ideas are lenses for envisioning the future. Every article and video on bigthink.com and on our learning platforms is based on an emerging “big idea” that is significant, widely relevant, and actionable. We’re sifting the noise for the questions and insights that have the power to change all of our lives, for decades to come. For example, reverse-engineering is a big idea in that the concept is increasingly useful across multiple disciplines, from education to nanotechnology.

Themes are the seven broad umbrellas under which we organize the hundreds of big ideas that populate Big Think. They include New World Order, Earth and Beyond, 21st Century Living, Going Mental, Extreme Biology, Power and Influence, and Inventing the Future.

Big Think Features:

12,000+ Expert Videos


Browse videos featuring experts across a wide range of disciplines, from personal health to business leadership to neuroscience.

Watch videos

World Renowned Bloggers


Big Think’s contributors offer expert analysis of the big ideas behind the news.

Go to blogs

Big Think Edge


Big Think’s Edge learning platform for career mentorship and professional development provides engaging and actionable courses delivered by the people who are shaping our future.

Find out more

Doctors In The Arab Spring Caught In The Crosshairs

April 6, 2012, 5:52 PM

What is the Big Idea?

An orthopedic surgeon was abducted by masked security forces from his operating room. He was tortured while detained in Bahrain.

Gaddafi's soldiers held an anesthesiologist in a shipping container for two weeks. He saw soldiers execute five other captives.

A young medic in Cairo was shot by an Egyptian military sniper while he was trying to help injured protesters.

Officers detained and tortured a Syrian doctor in Homs while he was providing medical supplies to protestors. 

Why is this wave of violence against doctors suddenly sweeping the countries in the Arab Spring?

Richard Sollom, deputy director of Physicians for Human Rights, answers this question in his commentary in the Global Post. He cites impunity, a fallout from the Arab Spring, as one reason.

"Security forces in this region have license to commit violations of medical neutrality in a climate of utter impunity," Sollom writes. "Armed forces, whether military or police, are not held to account for their abuses. No government in the aftermath of the Arab Spring has yet to bring charges against any law enforcement official for killing or torturing a physician."

What is the Significance?

Medical workers are often treating civilians who were tear gased or tortured by the government. These workers become vulnerable targets because they can identify the cause of injury. 

"State authorities target these neutral caregivers to silence them," said Sollom. "It’s the mafia equivalent of whacking a critical eyewitness."

The government is also trying to send the message that medical workers need to stop healing those who oppose the government. "This strong disincentive, though, has failed to dissuade many courageous physicians who adhere to their ethical codes and continue to save lives. Both during civil war and civil unrest state authorities violate medical neutrality as a means to discourage medical personnel from providing life-saving succor."

There are codes in the World Medical Association, the Geneva Conventions and international human rights treaties that reinforce medical neutrality, which safeguards:

• Protection of medical personnel, patients, facilities and transport from attack or interference
• Unhindered access to medical care
• Nondiscriminatory treatment of the sick and wounded

In some instances, perceived activism among medical workers is a justification for government intervention, said Sollom. Four dozen health professionals in Bahrain currently face  up to 15 years in prison for treating protestors.

To address the issue of medical neutrality globally and thwart future attacks on doctors by rogue governments, congressmen Jim McDermott and Walter Jones introduced the Medical Neutrality Protection Act of 2011. This bill makes the protection of medical personnel a global policy priority for the US government and establishes accountability for violations of medical neutrality. The law would require the Secretary of State to compile a list of governments that violate these international norms and impose sanctions on the sale of military equipment to these countries and visa bans for individual perpetrators.

"H.R. 2643, along with a future companion piece of legislation currently being ironed out in the Senate, is a good start to highlighting and preventing the spread of such egregious attacks against medical workers," said Sollom.

Image courtesy of  rm/Shutterstock.com.


Doctors In The Arab Spring ...

Newsletter: Share: