Medical Sanctions Against Russia: Arresting Aggression or Abrogating Healthcare Rights?

Michael L. Gross

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Since 2022, the EU, US, and other nations have imposed medical sanctions on Russia to block the export of pharmaceuticals and medical devices and curtail clinical trials to degrade Russia’s military capabilities. While international law proscribes sanctions that cause a humanitarian crisis, an outcome averted in Russia, the military effects of medical sanctions have been lean. Strengthening medical sanctions risks violating noncombatant and combatant rights to healthcare. Each group’s claim is different. Noncombatants and severely injured soldiers who cannot return to duty enjoy the right to adequate health care that sanctions cannot undermine. Combatants falling captive enjoy the same medical care that adversaries provide their own troops. Combatants yet to renounce hostilities, however, have no claim to medical attention and remain subject to sanctions. Nevertheless, medical sanctions prove unworkable in this complex environment of conflicting rights and command no place in a sustainable sanction regime.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages14
JournalAmerican Journal of Bioethics
Early online date20 Feb 2024
StateE-pub ahead of print - 20 Feb 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 The Author(s). Published with license by Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.


  • Sanctions; military ethics; law of armed conflict; healthcare rights; noncombatant immunity; conflict medicine; Russia–Ukraine war

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Issues, ethics and legal aspects
  • Health Policy


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