At stake is the reputation of international medical ethical codes as a system that works
It is of grave concern to the health of international medical ethics
that the WMA refuses to examine the telling body of evidence, including
that submitted by Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, regarding the
complicity with torture in Israel by individual physicians and the Israeli
Medical Association, a WMA member.
I was a speaker at a conference in Turkey- “Health as a Bridge to
Peace in the Middle East”- a few weeks ago. The conference was organised
by the WMA, the Norwegian and Turkish Medical Associations, the Human
Rights Foundation of Turkey, and the International Federation of Health
and Human Rights Organisations. New WMA President Dr Dana Hanson of
Canada was present.
My Power Point presentation included Case “M”, a Palestinian man detained
in Israel. His affidavit states:
Interrogated for 20 days, most of the time seated on a
chair fixed to the floor, hands tied behind his back.
Beaten and shaken, while shackled to the chair.
Threatened that his house would be demolished and
mother would be arrested. Indeed she was.
Following severe beatings, he fainted and sustained cuts to
his head and face. He suffered severe pains in his jaw to
the extent he was unable to eat.
He was taken to a hospital by an ambulance.
In presence of ambulance paramedics and a doctor,
interrogator instructs colleagues not to tell what happened,
but to say “M” fell down the stairs.
Hospital doctors treat him while still shackled. “M”
receives stitches to head and face. Doctor is asked by
interrogators not to order hospitalization. The doctor
“M” was brought back to prison. Interrogators ordered “M”
to wait inside the ambulance 3 hours to avoid having “M”
examined by the prison doctor (the one who asks too
many questions). “M” was finally released to another
doctor, (the doctor who doesn’t ask questions).
When M complains to the prison doctor he is told to shut
up, sent shackled to confinement cell without medicine.
Medication administered only following Red Cross visit.
There could hardly be a more graphic example of doctors violating the
WMA anti-torture Declaration of Tokyo. WMA President Hanson saw it with
his own eyes at a conference, as did new IMA President Dr Leonid Eidelman.
In the mentioned above presentation at the Turkey conference I
suggested to the WMA and WHO some practical actions to avoid doctors and
health personnel compliance in torture: to bind all National Medical
Associations to act both educationally and practically against torture or
inhumane treatment by require its members to report any case of torture
and in the same time to create a process for granting legal and financial
support to every doctor that might lose his/her job due to reporting such
The WMA has a duty to ensure its member associations abide by its
codes including the Declaration of Tokyo. What is at stake is the
reputation of international medical ethical codes as a system that works.
So what is President Hanson going to do about Case "M" and the many like
Founder & President
Physicians for Human Rights-Israel
Competing interests: No competing interests