A slew of top academicians and doctors have signed a public petition condemning the Israel Medical Association for its refusal to countenance the force-feeding of terrorist prisoner Mohammed Allan.
"We strenuously oppose the Israel Medical Association's position, according to which it is forbidden for a doctor to act to save the life of a hunger striking prisoner, even against his will,” the signatories proclaimed, noting that the IMA's position “was accompanied by profession-related threats toward whoever acts otherwise.”
The idea that doctors need to wait until a hunger striker loses consciousness and only then treat him is wrong for two reasons, they added. First: it still violates the autonomy of the striker, but also exposes him to the danger of sudden death or serious brain damage.
The petitioners include four Israel Prize laureates, and a host of central figures from the sciences in Israel, who state that force feeding a hunger-striking prisoner is allowed and is the moral thing to do.
According to NRG, the petition's signers include Dr. Atty. Ofra Golan, who chairs the ethics committees in several Israeli hospitals; Prof. Shimon Glick, former Dean of the Health Sciences Faculty in Ben Gurion University; Prof. Michael Gross, Head of International Relations Department at Haifa University and an expert on ethics; Prof. Yonatan Halevy, Director of Shaare Tzedek Medical Center; Dr. Mordechai Halperin, Head of the Schlesinger Institute at Shaare Tzedek, formerly in charge of ethics in the Health Ministry; Prof. Michael Weingarten, Chairman of the Ethics Dept. for cases involving human beings at the Hebrew University; Retired Supreme Court Judge Tzvi Tal, and Rivka Carmi, President of Ben Gurion University.
The Israel Prize laureates who signed are Prof. Asa Kasher of Tel Aviv University, Prof. Michel Revel of the Weizmann Institute, Prof. Menachem Rackover of Bar Ilan University, and Prof. Avraham Steinberg, Director of the Ethics Department at Shaare Tzedek Hospital.
The petition makes clear that the need to save a person's life is well rooted in Israeli law, from the biblical injunction “lo ta'amod al dam re'ekha,” commanding a person to save a life that is under threat, to the Patient's Rights Law.
"The decision about the timing of an act to save [a patient] and the proper and necessary ways of saving his life must be in the hands of the doctors caring for the patient, and in accordance with the decision of the ethical committee of the hospital,” the petitioners argued. “These difficult decisions will only be taken in extreme cases, in which there is immediate and clear danger to life, and as a last resort before the patient dies or suffers irreversible harm. The proposal to wait until the hunger striker loses his consciousness and only then treat him is wrong on two counts. It still violates the autonomy of the striker, and also exposes the striker to the danger of sudden death or serious brain damage.”
The petitioners said that the medical system should be disconnected from all political considerations, and act in the same way toward any patient, regardless of the circumstances that brought him to his serious medical state. A doctor who finds it ethically difficult to force-feed a hunger striker should cease treating the patient, but only after he makes sure that another doctor has taken his place, they said.