The government hoped that transferring Mohammed Allan to a different hospital would make force-feeding him easier. But a doctors’ protest is gaining ground.
A confrontation between the Israeli government and doctors treating hunger-striking prisoners is reaching a fever pitch, testing the medical community’s independence against government efforts to quell a nonviolent protest by Palestinian detainees.
The backdrop is a law passed last month sanctioning the force-feeding of hunger-striking prisoners, in order to combat a growing means of protest against administrative detention without charge or trial.
The test case for the new law appears to be Mohammed Allan, a 33-year-old Palestinian lawyer detained since November of last year. Allan is on the 54th day of his strike. As my colleague Yael Marom at Local Call reports, he is drinking water but refusing any minerals, vitamins, and medical treatment of any sort. It emerged this weekend that authorities would seek to force-feed Allan, and the resulting showdown over his treatment has pit a growing group of doctors, armed with medical ethics, against the state and the military.
Doctors at Soroka Hospital in Be’er Sheva, where Allan was hospitalized until this morning, refused to treat him, citing international standards governing patient autonomy. Their stand came despite the recommendation of a hospital ethics panel, which gave the doctors monitoring Allan “discretion” to take measures to save his life, even against his will. Israeli security services transferred Allan today to Ashkelon’s Barzilai Hospital, whose director, according to Ynet sources [Hebrew], “holds a different viewpoint with regards to force-feeding than the Soroka doctors.”
But the protest appears to be spreading. Doctors at Barzilai have also declared their refusal to treat him against his will, and, as of Monday afternoon, a fierce debate on the matter was in full swing at the hospital.
These doctors have the force of the Israeli medical establishment behind them. The Israeli Medical Association has come out vehemently against the law, unequivocally declaring force-feeding to be a form of torture in accordance with international standards. The body filed a petition against the law with the High Court of Justice three days after it passed, and indicated on Sunday evening it would also ask for the court’s urgent intervention to prevent Allan’s force feeding. Its chairman, Dr. Leonid Eidelman, said last year that doctors should disobey force-feeding orders, and that the association would not be able to defend force-feeding doctors should...Read More