Arab Medical Associations Meet to Discuss Ethics of Detention

(29.03.2013) The heads of ten national medical associations from Arabic countries have concluded a successful meeting in Amman, Jordan to discuss the ethical aspects of health in detention.

The meeting, organised by the International Committee of the Red Cross and the World Medical Association, focused on the specific health needs of prisoners, as well as the role of national medical associations and the WMA in co-operating to improve the situation in prisons.

Dr. Otmar Kloiber, Secretary General of the WMA, who attended the gathering, commented afterwards: ‘This was a highly successful and productive meeting and the WMA is hopeful that more Arab countries will now either join the WMA or co-operate in discussing the many difficult issues facing the region. 

‘I pointed out at the meeting that many of the areas of concern to Arab countries are already being addressed by the WMA and that we have a strong record of supporting the region's national medical associations in protecting doctors and their patients. The WMA can help medical associations in the ethical treatment of detainees, by advocating respect for international standards like the Declaration of Tokyo on the non-involvement of doctors in torture and degrading treatment and the Declaration of Malta on hunger strikes.'

The three-day meeting, which ended yesterday (Thursday), was also addressed by Dr. Hernan Reyes, formerly of the ICRC, who spoke about the WMA's prison medicine course, the first comprehensive international learning tool on how to deal with ethical problems in the field, as well as the issue of hunger strikes and the policy prohibiting treatment against their will.

Professor Vivienne Nathanson, from the British Medical Association, spoke about the relation between law and ethics and emphasised why physicians' associations should get involved in making, advocating and implementing ethics policy. 

The meeting was attended by representatives from national medical associations in Jordan, Algeria, Iraq, Libya, Tunisia, Lebanon, Mauritania, Yemen, Palestine and Bahrain. At the moment, only Tunisia, among them, is a member of the WMA.