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Dual loyalty in military medical ethics: a moral dilemma or a test of integrity?
  1. Peter Olsthoorn
  1. Faculteit of Military Sciences, Netherlands Defence Academy, Breda, The Netherlands
  1. Correspondence to Peter Olsthoorn, Netherlands Defence Academy, Breda 4818, The Netherlands; phj.olsthoorn.01{at}


When militaries mention loyalty as a value they mean loyalty to colleagues and the organisation. Loyalty to principle, the type of loyalty that has a wider scope, plays hardly a role in the ethics of most armed forces. Where military codes, oaths and values are about the organisation and colleagues, medical ethics is about providing patient care impartially. Being subject to two diverging professional ethics can leave military medical personnel torn between the wish to act loyally towards colleagues, and the demands of a more outward looking ethic. This tension constitutes a test of integrity, not a moral dilemma.

  • loyalty
  • moral dilemmas
  • professionalism
  • tests of integrity
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  • Correction notice This article has been corrected since it was published Online First. Contributors section should be blank.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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