This chapter discusses chemical warfare from the view point of the military healthcare provider.
Some military medical personnel view the specter of chemical warfare with fear and repugnance. The images of clouds of poisonous chemicals; contaminated terrain and equipment; and the need to work in protective masks and hot, cumbersome overgarments are intimidating even to well-trained soldiers. But for medical personnel there is an added factor: the fear of the unknown. The milieu of the chemical battlefield is especially alien since little in the normal professional practice of most military medical personnel has any resemblance to the management of casualties of chemical warfare. Although military strategists might view chemical warfare agents as simply one of the means to immobilize or destroy an enemy force, others may view such weapons as abhorrent extensions of conventional warfare. Be that as it may, it is not the intent of this chapter to justify the use of chemical weapons in battle but rather to relate the use of chemical warfare to health issues. Although current policy of the United States government prohibits using chemical weapons against an adversary, this policy is not shared by all nations; therefore, to be effective, military medical personnel must be knowledgeable and trained.
Borden Institute, Walter Reed Army Medical Ctr, Washington, DC 20307-5001, United States