012115CAPLAN.mp3

The Fourth Geneva Convention was an international provision adopted by the United Nations Security Council in 1949 to, among other things, protect hospitals, doctors and care workers in times of war. The UN passed the measure so that even in war zones, hospital workers could performe services and administer proper medical care.

However, even in peaceful countries far from war zones, such measures cannot be fully guaranteed.

On Tuesday, a gunman entered Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston and opened fire on a cardiac surgeon. The gunman died of self-inflicted gunshot wounds. The cardiac surgeon — Dr. Michael Davidson — died as well.

In the wake of that incident, security and medical experts debated whether hospitals should be better prepared not just to tend to horrific injuries and accidents sustained out in civilian life, but for those same injuries and accidents should they happen inside their own doors.

Brigham and Women's Hospital was not equipped with a metal detector. Many hospitals have protocols in place for guns or bombs brought into their buildings. However, an active shooter is difficult to handle in even the most secure environment.

Art Caplan, head of the division of medical ethics at New York University's Langone Medical Center, said violence in hospitals is a "real problem."

'We should probably have video monitors everywhere. People lash out.'

"We should probably have video monitors everywhere," Caplan said. "People on drugs, people get angry, people lash out. Knowing that everything you're going to do is on tape is going to be a deterrent."

Caplan noted many hospitals have dealt with situations like the one at Brigham and Women's. The perpetrators were either under the influence, or suffered from mental illness. "There have been instances where people have come in and said 'you do this' at gun point."

Despite harrowing shooting incidents, most doctors, nurses and staff remain undeterred.

"I don't think they go to work worrying, you know, if something like this is going to happen to me," Caplan said. "You can't turn the place into an armed camp." Caplan said that doctors doubly deserve praise for assuming risk in that environment. "You gotta appreciate them."

>> To hear the entire interview with Art Caplan, click the audio above. Caplan appears weekly on Boston Public Radio, and hosts the podcast Everyday Ethics.