Global Medical Bodies Urge Turkish Premier To Drop Action Against Physicians

(07.03.2014) The World Medical Association, together with 10 other medical organisations, has called on the Prime Minister of Turkey to immediately drop legal action against members of the Turkish Medical Association for providing emergency medical care to demonstrators during last year's protests in Istanbul.

In a strongly worded letter, leaders of the 11 medical bodies declare: ‘Physicians should never be punished for following their professional duty of providing care without discrimination to those in need. As members of the international medical community, we are gravely concerned by the actions that have been taken against the TMA and the provisions contained in the new health law, which criminalizes emergency medical care and requires routine reporting of all confidential patient information to state authorities.' 

The letter to Prime Minister Erdoğan follows the decision of the Turkish Ministry of Health in January to bring court action against governing and disciplinary boards of the Turkish Medical Association's Ankara Chamber of Medicine. The Ministry has also requested their removal from office on the grounds that they “established healthcare units called infirmaries illicitly and without control and supervision and thus engaged in activities out of its mission.” 

The joint letter expresses deep concern at the Ministry's ‘punitive actions against physicians who acted ethically in providing emergency medical care to demonstrators and bystanders injured during the Gezi Park protests that began in May 2013.' 

It adds: ‘As you know, thousands of demonstrators were injured during the Gezi Park protests in dozens of cities across Turkey. The
TMA recruited and organized physicians to provide urgently needed emergency medical care to injured demonstrators. Medical care took place in mosques, shopping malls, hotels - anywhere possible and for only as long as the need existed. Such spontaneous and idiosyncratic medical relief efforts cannot be characterized as “established healthcare units.” 

‘The TMA not only followed international standards of medical ethics at great personal risk, they also acted in accordance with the Turkish Penal Code, which makes it a crime for medical personnel to neglect their duty of providing emergency medical care to those in need.' 

The letter ends by pointing out that the Turkish government has an obligation to respect the sacred duty of physicians to care for those in need and uphold people's right to health. 


The signatories to the letter are: 

Donna McKay, Executive Director, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) 

Dr. Otmar Kloiber, Secretary General, World Medical Association (WMA) 

Dr. Vivienne Nathanson, Director of Professional Activities, British Medical Association (BMA) 

Prof. Dr. Frank Ulrich Montgomery, President, German Medical Association (Bundesärztekammer, GMA) 

Dr. Katrin Fjeldsted, President, Standing Committee of European Doctors (CPME) 

Dr. Mark Reiter, President, American Academy of Emergency Medicine (AAEM) 

Dr. Adriaan van Es, Secretary, International Federation of Health and Human Rights Organizations (IFHHRO) 

Dr. Peter Hall, Chair, Doctors for Human Rights (DHR) 256 West 38th Street, 9th Floor • New York, NY 10018 • T: 646.564.3720 • 

Dr. M. Masoud Sarwari, Coordinator, Alliance of Health Organizations (AHO) 

Meenakshi Menon, Executive Director, Global Health through Education, Training and Service (GHETS) 

Elizabeth Adams, Director of Professional Development, Irish Nurses and Midwifery Organisation (INMO)