Ethical issues in global health placements: Reflections on personal experience

Benjamin Tassie1, Bronwen Morrell2,

1 St Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney, 390 Victoria Street, Darlinghurst, Sydney 2010
2 Centre for Values, Ethics and the Law in Medicine, Level 1, Medical Foundation Building, K25, University of Sydney, NSW 2006

In recent years global health ethics has begun to address ethical issues emerging from short-term global health placements of health practitioners. This includes issues arising from short-term medical volunteerism by doctors and other health professionals, medical student global health electives, and other forms of global health outreach work. For over a decade St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney has been sending Senior Resident Medical Officers to Gizo Hospital, Solomon Islands as part of a joint initiative with the Honorary Consul for the Solomon Islands. In 2015 I spent 10 weeks in Gizo Hospital as part of this initiative. The experience was educational, inspirational, and incredibly challenging. In this presentation I will describe my experiences, outline the challenges and complexities I faced in my day-to-day life and work in the Solomon Islands, and discuss the ways in which these experiences highlight the ethical issues of such programs. I will then promote discussion amongst conference attendees about these ethical issues, the ways in which practitioners participating in these programmes might be best prepared and supported, and the role such programmes might play in promoting global health advocacy.


Over the last four years, Benjamin has been working as a medical officer at St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney. He has recently returned from a 10 week placement in Gizo Hospital, Solomon Islands where he managed the emergency department and conducted outreach clinics. He is currently completing his masters in bioethics at the University of Sydney.

About the Association

The Australasian Association of Bioethics and Health Law (AABHL) was formed in 2009.

It encourages open discussion and debate on a range of bioethical issues, providing a place where people can ask difficult questions about ideas and practices associated with health and illness, biomedical research and human values.

The AABHL seeks to foster a distinctive Australasian voice in bioethics, and provide opportunities for international engagement through its membership, journal and conferences.

Members come from all the contributing humanities, social science and science disciplines that make up contemporary bioethics.

Many members have cross-disciplinary interests and all seek to broaden the dialogues in which all members of the wider community ultimately have an interest.

The AABHL is a supportive, creative and challenging community that provides a rich source of continuing academic refreshment and renewal.

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