Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics

Ethics Committees at Work

A Hospital Ethics Committee at War: The Hospital Ship Mercy Experience during Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm

William Robert Kisera1

a1 Commander in the Medical Corps, United States Navy Reserve, and a Fellow in Family Practice, Department of Family Medicine, Madigan Army Medical Center, Tacoma, Washington

During Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm, USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) was one of two American hospital ships deployed to the Persian Gulf. She arrived in the Gulf on 15 September 1990, following a 12,000-mile transit from her homeport of Oakland, California, and remained on station until 18 March 1991, when she passed through the Straits of Hormuz on her return voyage home. During the height of her deployment, Mercy was staffed with nearly 1,200 men and women, including physicians, nurses, dentists, representatives of affiliated health-care disciplines (including physical therapy, pharmacy, clinical psychology, social work, dietetics, and environmental health), hospital corpsmen, dental technicians, healthcare administrators, chaplains, and various nonmedical support personnel. The staff included a mix of active duty military providers and recalled reservists.