Best Defense

Are we doing the extremely wounded any favors by saving their ruined bodies?

That’s the question posed in "Rain," a new novel by a British veteran, Barney Campbell.

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That’s the question posed in Rain, a new novel by a British veteran, Barney Campbell:

“I’m not sure whether it would have been better for some of the really bad ones just to have bled out. To have had the medic overdose them on morphine, loosen the tourniquets and let them just slip away in peace, surrounded by their friends, instead of facing decades of people that will give way sooner or later to apathy.”

It is a hard question, and one that I don’t think we have addressed. I remember asking two American neurosurgeons in Iraq about saving American soldiers who were head shot. Their response was a concerned shrug. They said they could save just about anybody except a soldier with a transverse shot behind the ears. But, they added, they weren’t sure that saving some of the others was indeed the right thing to do.

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Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at Twitter: @tomricks1
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