WMA Appeals to Israeli Prime Minister to Reconsider Force Feeding Bill

(26.06.2015) The World Medical Association has appealed to Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to reconsider Government legislation before the Knesset which would explicitly allow the force-feeding of detainees on hunger strike. In a letter to the Prime Minister, the WMA President Dr. Xavier Deau and Chair Dr. Ardis Hoven say that doctors should not be involved in any way in torture or inhumane and degrading treatments.

They add: ‘Force-feeding is violent, very painful and absolutely in opposition to the principle of individual autonomy. It is a degrading, inhumane treatment, amounting to torture. But worse, it can be dangerous and is the most unsuitable approach to save lives.

‘The evidence from many cases around the world that our colleagues have been working on over the past four decades, shows that the best results are obtained when the patient/physician relationship is maintained, even under the difficult circumstance of a hunger strike. This includes patient confidentiality, proper medical care and advice by the physician, but also respecting the free will of the patient. Force-feeding is completely incompatible with this and destroys any patient/physician trust.’

The WMA leaders say that there are far better results in handling hunger strikes than by force-feeding and they supported the initiatives for medical care put forward by the Israeli Medical Association. Israeli physicians had treated dozens of hunger strikers very successfully over the past two decades and were able to deal with the situation, if only they were only allowed to establish a real patient/physician relationship without threats and interference from prison authorities.

‘For the sake of the people involved and the safety and reputation of your country, please reconsider this step which is already broadly criticised internationally, but worse, which will not help the problem you wish to solve.’