Maazouze, the mother of Mohammed Allaan, a Palestinian prisoner who is on a long-term hunger strike, holds a portrait of her son during a rally calling for his release..
(photo credit: AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)
A Palestinian security prisoner who has been on a hunger strike for 55 days was transferred on Monday to Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon from Soroka University Medical Center in Beersheba amid fears from his supporters that Israeli authorities are trying to find a way to force-feed him in order to break his strike.
Mohammad Allan, reputedly a member of Islamic Jihad, was admitted to the general intensive care unit of Barzilai and “will be treated according to his medical condition as required by the Patients’ Rights Law,” the Ashkelon hospital spokeswoman said.
The move was made amid concern Dr. Chezy Levy, Barzilai’s medical director, would agree to Israeli requests that Allan be force-fed. MK Ahmad Tibi (United Arab List) said on Monday he had spoken to Levy, who assured him that he would not force- feed Allan.
Also on Monday, the Israel Medical Association (IMA) issued a petition to the Supreme Court to examine the legality of the force-feeding bill passed by the Knesset at the end of July. The petition will be heard by the court during the first half of September IMA chairman Dr. Leonid Eidelman said Monday he has been in communication with doctors at Barzilai, who have assured him that they will not force-feed Allan.
Eidelman said the ethical concerns against force-feeding are not only because it is done without the patient’s consent, but also because even if it’s performed to save someone’s life it is still a very painful, difficult procedure for a patient to endure.
“In order to save someone’s life, you must torture them. Force feeding is not a one-time thing, it takes a while, and it’s a matter of days not hours or minutes,” he said.
Whatever the reason was for transferring Allan, even the act of moving him is dangerous for his health, Eidelman added.
According to the medical ethics adhered to by the association, a patient can only be treated against their will if they lose consciousness, Eidelman said, adding that in the case of a hunger striker who loses consciousness all means would be used to revive them and feeding would only consist of replenishing electrolytes.
According to the World Medical Association’s Declaration of Malta on Hunger Strikes, adopted in 1991, “forcible feeding is never ethically acceptable. Even if intended to benefit, feeding accompanied by threats, coercion, force or use of physical restraints is a form of inhuman and degrading treatment. Equally unacceptable is the forced feeding of some detainees in order to intimidate or coerce other hunger strikers to stop fasting.”
In late July, the Knesset passed into law the “Prevention of Damage by Hunger Strikers
” bill, which gives authorities the right to force-feed hunger-striking prisoners. The step can only be applied after it is approved by the attorney general and a president of a district court, and only after a doctor determines that the hunger strike, if continued, would cause irreparable damage to the prisoner or that the life of the hunger striker is in danger. Authorities must also first try to get the prisoner to consent to the treatment and make them aware of the realities of the procedure, which would be administered by infusions or tubes forced through the mouth or nose into the stomach, and a prison guard would be able to use reasonable force if the prisoner resists.
In a tweet on Monday, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, the main supporter of the force-feeding bill, lashed out at the IMA
, saying that according to the IMA “there are only two ways the state can deal with a terrorist from Islamic Jihad who is in custody: release him or let him die. This is the conclusion drawn from the pressure being exerted on the doctors.”
Hunger strikes have long been a favored tactic of protest
by Palestinian security prisoners. In recent years, it has been used repeatedly to protest “administrative detentions,” the procedure in which suspects believed to be involved in security crimes are held in custody for months at a time – and potentially indefinitely – without charge or without being able to see the evidence or allegations against them.
The death of a hunger striker is a possibility feared by Israeli security officials because of the possibility it prompt a wave of rioting. The force-feeding bill was meant to give authorities the ability to prevent hunger strikers from dying, without giving in to their demands