The necessity of international relief is unending, as new crises continue to emerge across the world, whether from war, natural disaster, or hostile political or social environments. International aid plays a crucial role that often shapes the way in which the community begins to rebuild itself. While the ultimate goal is to lessen the burden of suffering nations and peoples, humanitarian aid can often have a variety of unanticipated consequences, leading to negative outcomes. In terms of medical humanitarianism, this disparity poses a bioethical issue because it results in ineffective or inefficient treatment of patients. Furthermore, inadequate aid often leaves behind substantial and foundational problems that the local community or healthcare system is not equipped to handle. Providing international medical aid should be done with the purpose of furthering the development and efficacy of foreign healthcare systems. This in turn empowers the community and lessens the burden of future crises by providing them with the tools and knowledge to move forward independently. There are several areas of improvement that must be addressed in the provision of international medical aid to achieve this goal consistently. This academic paper examines several sources of error in international medical aid, including medical pluralism, the challenges of short-term aid, lack of coordination, ethical decision-making and distributive justice, political and social structures, and misguided motivation. Finally, several recommendations for best practice are made based on lessons learned from previous endeavors. These include clustered coordination approaches, training in context-appropriate care, education in local healthcare systems and epidemiology, training of local providers in necessary procedures, and developing a meaningful relationship with the community. With deliberate effort, medical humanitarianism can be conducted in a purposeful way that will not only benefit the community in need, but contribute to a world-wide growth of justice and peace that benefits all people.
Note: At the author’s request, the full paper is not published online.