The Knesset’s Internal Affairs Committee has ended its 2-day discussion of a controversial bill recently introduced to facilitate forced feeding of Palestinian hunger strikers. The bill has been approved for final readings next Monday. Physicians for Human Rights Israel has released a few details in regard to the discussion which took place:During the meeting, substantial objections were raised by both medical and legal experts.
Minister of Public Security, Yizhak Aharonovich, opened the discussion stating the aim of bill is ‘to prevent security prisoners from pressuring Israel through hunger strikes’.
In 2012, an agreement was reached between Israeli authorities and hunger strikers in which Israel was to review its administrative detention policy. And, although the number of administrative detainees decreased until January of 2014, it rose again from 145 to 192 by May.
According to PHR-IL, there was never a true review of the policy as such.
Now, a new section of the bill will require doctors who refuse to force feed their patients to transfer their patient to another physician.
The measure has been harshly criticized by the Israel Medical Association, as it will further pressure doctors to use force-feeding methods or to cause it to happen in some way, regardless, placing doctors in direct contravention of both medical ethics and international law.
PHR-ILL reports that the Ethics Committee of the Israeli Nurses Association has issued a position paper in rejection of the bill, stating that its professional and ethical codes, along with existing legislation (e.g. the Patient’s Right Act) are adequate for dealing with situations where treatment might be given without consent.
Furthermore, the committee stressed that forced feeding is never ethically acceptable.
Essentially, physicians will be forced to participate in torture, whether they physically engage in force-feeding patients or simply pass their patient on to someone who will.
Dr. Leonid Eidelman, who chairs the IMA, told Knesset members the actual practice of force feeding is quite different from talking about it in a meeting room:
‘You cannot insert a feeding tube into a patient’s [throat] every day, nor can you prevent the movement of an arm with an IV’.
The doctor also mentioned that similar legislative initiatives were attempted in Tunisia, Jordan and Lebanon, only to be revoked.
Also mentioned, during the meeting, was the fact that force feeding has caused death of prisoners in the past, to which MK Regev responded that this is ‘ancient history’, and ‘irrelevant’.
In fact, both human autonomy and feeding tubes are the same today as they were the last time a prisoner died from force feeding, in 1992.
The bill, if it passes into law, will inevitably radicalize the crisis not only with the hunger strikers themselves but with the Palestinian community at large, PHR-IL reports, noting that it reflects the policy of collective punishment taken by the army and West Bank security forces after the three Israeli settlers went missing in recent days.
A majority vote in favor of the bill is expected by PHR-ILL, as Coalition members are required to vote with the government.
PHR IL calls upon the international community in pressuring Israel to: end its administrative detention policy, to negotiate for a life-saving agreement with the detainees and prisoners on hunger strike, to refrain from passing its force feeding bill, to allow independent physicians to visit the hunger strikers, so as to promote trust and a life-saving solution.
See related link: More Than 30 Days Of Hunger Strike, And Their Battle Continues