[ Ed. note – Yesterday the British Medical journal The Lancet published a special edition devoted to “Israel’s achievements in health.” According to an executive summary on the journal’s website:
These five Lancet Series papers and accompanying comments outline Israel’s achievements in health and health care, towards a goal of attaining universal health coverage for an unusually diverse population. The papers explore Israel’s unique history, challenges, and accomplishments, and the religious and regional influences that have had an impact on health. The Series also offers an insight into existing collaborations and potential future opportunities, and outlines extensive recommendations to address the persisting inequalities between population groups, and to further strengthen health-care delivery systems.
The issue was probably timed around the 69th anniversary of Israel’s founding, but it’s publication date–May 8–coincides with day 22 of a hunger strike by Palestinian prisoners and moreover comes just as reports have surfaced that Israel is trying to recruit doctors to force-feed the prisoners in violation of medical ethics.
In fact, the prisoners, in response to reports about the planned force-feedings, have called for a “week of rage” against the Zionist state.
“Any attempt to force-feed any hunger-striking prisoner will be treated as an attempt to execute prisoners. We will turn these prisons into battle fields with our bodies, armed with our will and determination,” reads a statement put out by the prisoners.
You can go here to access an essay on why force-feeding prisoners is considered a violation of medical ethics, but a key paragraph from the article reads:
So, despite the doctor’s dilemma, if the prisoners are making rational, informed, and uncoerced choices to continue their hunger strike, then every international code of ethics, including that of the World Medical Association (WMA), supports the prisoners’ actions. The WMA Declaration of Tokyo states: “Where a prisoner refuses nourishment and is considered by the physician as capable of forming an unimpaired and rational judgment concerning the consequences of such a voluntary refusal of nourishment, he or she shall not be fed artificially” . To ensure that the physician is making the correct determination, the WMA goes on to add, “the decision as to the capacity of the prisoner to form such a judgment should be confirmed by at least one other independent physician. The consequences of the refusal of nourishment shall be explained by the physician to the prisoner”
To give credit where credit is due, Israeli medical professionals have refused to participate in the force-feedings, and they have also called upon foreign doctors to refuse the Israeli government’s efforts at recruiting practitioners from abroad willing to violate the ethics code.
But in addition to force-feeding, is it possible Israel may also start levying fines against hunger strikers? The following is reported by Ma’an News:
Head of the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs Issa Qaraqe announced Monday that the committee had also decided to suspend payments it provides for prisoners so they can purchase items from the prison commissary where hunger strikers have been getting salt to balance their healths, after IPS [Israeli Prison Service] started to deplete hunger strikers’ accounts by 200 to 500 shekels ($55-140).
The same article says that the IPS has banned lawyer visitations for hunger-striking prisoners, and an additional article reports that hunger-strikers have been placed in solitary, transferred to other prisons, and undergone nightly cell raids and confiscation of personal belongings.
And that’s where things stand now. Enter: The Lancet. You can go here to access the prestigious medical journal’s special issue, which is entitled, “Health in Israel.” One of the articles, an essay headlined “Medical Ethics in Israel: Bridging Religious and Secular Values,” contains the following passage:
Nevertheless, the law [of the state of Israel] also permits actual coercion of life-saving treatment upon an otherwise competent patient if the institutional ethics committee, after careful consideration, agrees that the patient would give his or her consent retroactively after treatment. Several court cases have now taken place to impose treatment on a non-consenting individual. In one case, the court mandated force-feeding a hunger-striking prisoner on the basis that in Israeli culture, human life takes precedence over human dignity. The ethics committee of the Israel Medical Association, by contrast, is opposed to force-feeding a hunger-striker because they consider it affront to autonomy and human freedom.
The article makes no mention of the current hunger strike.
Whether the editors at The Lancet were aware the strike is going on is unclear, though one would think that publishing an entire issue extolling “Israel’s achievements in health”–this at time when the Zionist government has designs on carrying out a gross violation of medical ethics–would be some cause for embarrassment.
The article below, published today by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, offers some insight why the Lancet’s management may have decided (or felt compelled) to venture into such a publishing foray at the present time. And just beneath the article you will find an RT report on the hunger strike, also just posted today. ]
British Medical Journal The Lancet Publishes Issue Devoted to Israel
The British medical journal The Lancet published a special issue on Israel three years after publishing an open letter that accused Israel of committing war crimes in Gaza.
The special issue, titled “Health in Israel: Progress and Challenges in a Region of Conflict,” was unveiled Monday in Tel Aviv. It was guest edited by A. Mark Clarfield of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and also staffed by Orly Manor of the Israel National Institute for Health Policy and Services Research and Zaher Azzam of the Rambam Health Care Campus.
The issue is part of The Lancet’s series of country analyses investigating progress toward universal health coverage, and explores the unique aspects of health and health care delivery in Israel. The papers, authored by academics and policymakers in Israel, offer constructive recommendations for strengthening the country’s health care system, improving health and addressing health inequalities in Israel.
In the August 2014 issue of the Lancet, “An open letter for the people of Gaza” accused Israel of a “massacre” in Gaza during the war between Israel and Hamas, as well as “cruel” and “vicious war crimes.” Physicians, researchers and Israeli officials decried the letter, which was signed by several dozen Western doctors.
Dr. Richard Horton, editor-in-chief of the Lancet, visited Israel that October and then wrote in an editorial that he regretted publishing the letter and said, “This schism helped no-one and I certainly regret that result. I have seen for myself that what was written in the Manduca et al letter does not describe the full reality.” He announced in that editorial that he would devote an issue to health care in Israel.
Horton said in a statement issued Monday, “This Series was conceived in the aftermath of a tragic conflict in 2014 between Israel and Gaza, and following publication of a letter that divided world medical opinion about that conflict. Through the generous and courageous outreach of the authors of this Series, we have sought to show that medicine and science can be a bridge to a better understanding of complex and seemingly intractable geopolitical challenges. Our future commitment is to work intensively with both our Palestinian and Israeli colleagues to provide the foundations in one aspect of society for peace and justice.”
In the wake of the Gaza letter, the journal issued new guidelines to deal with “submissions that lie at the difficult intersection of medicine and politics.”