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Israeli doctors risk trial for force-feeding Palestinian prisoners

The Israel Medical Association warned that doctors who are involved in force-feeding Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike could be tried in the International Criminal Court in The Hague and that the union will not be able to defend them, Israel’s Haaretz newspaper reported yesterday.

The paper quoted Medical Association Chairman Dr Leonid Edelman as saying that doctors who participate in force-feeding prisoners “will be denounced by the medical community in the world and it would be difficult to protect them from any lawsuits”.

Force-feeding prisoners on hunger strike is considered torture in every sense and prohibited under the rules of ethics of the Israeli Medical Association and the world.

The association has warned Israeli doctors involved in force-feeding prisoners about trials outside Israel, even if their actions comply with their own country’s laws; laws which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seeks to pass in the Knesset.

The newspaper said two days ago the association sent letters to all doctors in internal medicine and emergency departments in hospitals which receive prisoners on hunger strike banning feeding them by force.

On Sunday, the Association will activate an emergency telephone line to provide help and advice to doctors who treat prisoners on hunger strike.

Tens of prisoners on hunger strike are lying in eight hospitals across Israel.

On Monday the Knesset approved the first reading of a draft resolution allowing prisoners to be force-fed.

The Israeli Medical Association recently held a conference attended by senior doctors and heads of trade unions and scientific representatives from the Israeli Ministry of Health and the Red Cross and medical officers in prison authorities to reiterate its opposition to feeding prisoners by force.

Dr Edelman said: “Medical ethics trump the law. Even if they pass a law obligating us to do this, doctors must refuse. In dark regimes, doctors followed laws that contravened ethics and that led to the worst things in history.”

The paper noted that the Bar Association and biological professions ethics committee in the Israeli Ministry of Health announced their opposition to the suggested law.

The newspaper said that there was no professional support for the law except from the Ministry of Justice.


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