After hearing that the Justice Ministry is preparing a bill that would allow,
with a court’s permission, the forced-feeding of security prisoners that are
refusing to eat, the Israel Medical Association voiced its strong opposition on
IMA chairman Dr. Leon Eidelman said that such a law would
“violate the rules of international ethics.”
He added that the
professional organization’s position on forced feeding of prisoners was clear:
“Hunger strikers – including security prisoners – may not be fed against their
will if they are able to voice their positions and understand the significance
of the refusal to accept medical treatment.”
In a letter sent last
Thursday to Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, Eidelman expressed his “great
concern” about the bill being prepared in her office.
The issue of
political hunger strikers “is a difficult and painful one. No one wants to see
the death of another human, and it is worse for doctors not to take action to
treat people who harm themselves and starve to death. But at the same time, the
prohibition against force-feeding of prisoners is among the clear and solid
ethical principles in the modern and enlightened world,” he wrote.
principle, Eidelman continued, was aimed at preventing harm to a human being’s
It is based on the 1991 Malt Declaration of the World Medical
Association. In fact, Prof. George Annas, the noted bioethicist at the Boston
University School of Public Health, has stated in the New England Journal of
Medicine that the forced feeding of a person who is able to decide for himself
“is not the practice of medicine; it is aggravated assault.” Eidelman, an
anesthesiologist by profession, demanded that the Justice Ministry reconsider
“Experience from dealing with mass hunger strikes of people
under arrest and prisoners,” he concluded, “has shown that doctors in the Israel
Prison Service and hospitals where they were treated have been successful
without forced feeding, and that ‘not a single prisoner has died’ in this way.
The doctors have also been praised by the International Red Cross.”
comment was issued by the Justice Ministry’s spokesman.