Intended for healthcare professionals


Medical ethics, the Israeli Medical Association, and the state of the World Medical Association

BMJ 2003; 327 doi: (Published 04 September 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;327:561

Open letter to the BMA

  1. Derek Summerfield, honorary senior lecturer (
  1. Institute of Psychiatry, King's College, London SE5 8AP

    EDITOR—Persistent concerns have been raised about the role of the World Medical Association (WMA), the international watch-dog on medical ethics, in respect of their approach to the Israeli Medical Association (IMA) in particular.1 Matters have now come to a head with the news that Yoram Blachar, longstanding IMA president, has been elected as chairman of the WMA council.

    The WMA must know the well founded criticism over many years of the medical ethical track record of the Israeli Medical Association (IMA). In 1996 Amnesty International concluded that Israeli doctors working with the security services “form part of a system in which detainees are tortured, ill treated, and humiliated in ways that place prison medical practice in conflict with medical ethics.”2 Other major human rights organisations, such as Physicians for Human Rights (USA) and Human Rights Watch, published similarly. The IMA did nothing, although when challenged tended to dismiss criticism as “political” and point to their membership of the WMA as evidence of their probity. Moreover Blachar is on record in the Lancet as defending “moderate physical pressure” during the interrogation of Palestinian detainees: it is not often that the …

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