Deputy health minister threatens doctors who will refuse to force-feed security prisoners

Litzman denounces IMA chirman for saying association would tell its medical professionals not to force feed hunger strikers in Israeli jails, day after cabinet okays bill in implement such measures.

A doctor stands with stethoscope in this undated handout photo. (photo credit: REUTERS)
A doctor stands with stethoscope in this undated handout photo.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Deputy Health Minister MK Ya’acov Litzman on Monday denounced Israel Medical Association chairman Dr. Leonid Eidelman who said the day before that the IMA would tell its member doctors not to carry out forced feeding of security prisoners.
Asking to speak at the beginning of a session on no-smoking enforcement in the Knesset Labor, Social Welfare and Health Committee, Litzman said the doctor “must take back what he said and apologize. If he refuses, I will find ways to take action.”
Committee chairman Kulanu MK Eli Alalouf said he agreed with Litzman, that “we as health professionals and Jews must act to save lives.”
Litzman was commenting on Eidelman’s and the Physicians for Human Rights-Israel’s reaction to Sunday’s cabinet decision to approve the renewal of the legislative process to force feed hunger strikers -- including security prisoners -- that was begun during the last Knesset. There are currently four security prisoners on hunger strike, and one of them is hospitalized in serious condition.
Eidelman wrote to Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked to object to the cabinet pushing through the bill, which was removed from the agenda of the 19th Knesset after it was passed on its first reading. The bill makes it possible to receive a court order to give medical treatment and/or force feed against the hunger striker’s will and even his active opposition.
Suddenly pushing through approval of the bill for Knesset handling will “place doctors who treat prisoners in impossible situations,” the IMA chairman added.
The doctors association object because it places responsibility on physicians to carry out invasive treatment of prisoners in spite of their preference and right to autonomy. The bill thus contravenes the Patients’ Rights Law, said Eidelman, as well as medical ethics accepted both in Israel and the rest of the world.
Physicians are sworn to uphold the principle of “non-maleficence”, that is, the obligation of the physician not to inflict harm intentionally. Thus, doctors will face complicated and difficult ethical dilemmas if the bill passes.