Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Forced feeding against hunger strike in Israel

The Israeli government is introducing tube feeding to the prisoners who are conducting hunger strike.

In Israel, thousands of Palestinian prisoners have refused to take food for the purpose of protest against detention. The government submitted the bill to enable doctors to take forcible means in the case in which the prisoner's life is threatened. The bill has already approved by the parliament.

International Business Times: Israel approves force-feeding for Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike

Israeli Medical Association (IMA) is opposing the new law because forced feeding can be a torture against prisoners. It insists this legislation is violating the Patients' Rights Law and international medical ethics, and encourages practitioners not to be involved in this treatment.

On the other hand, Israeli justice minister Ayelet Shaked emphasizes that the duty of authorities to protect the prisoners' life. According to her, forced feeding is only a means to prevent the prisoners from suicide using hunger strike.

The statement of the Minister seems rational. Indeed, tube feeding, sometimes against the patient's will, is often used for patients with anorexia nervosa in a psychiatric hospital. Saving the life should be always prioritized in any situation.

I think there are three points of discussion. First, feeding can be painful if brutally adopted. It is possible that the doctor will torture prisoners in the shape of tube feeding. In this sense, I understand the worrying of IMA. The assessment of the prisoners' status and the procedure of forced feeding should be investigated in detail.

Second, the difference between a psychiatric hospital and administrative detention is crucial. In general, psychiatric patients are to be examined to assess their capacity. A second opinion is needed to treat incapable patients forcibly. There are strict regulations to protect their rights and dignity in many countries. In contrast, I am doubtful whether the administrative detention scheme equips fair and adequate procedure to examine each detainee.

Third, and the most important matter is the situation that many prisoners decide to conduct such a self-destructive means to protest their opinion. It is deeply linked to the political instability of Israel and surround regions.

The fact that Israeli government selected the form of a new law, instead of arbitrary management, to treat hunger strikers is admirable. I hope the conflict will be resolved so that no one would have to conduct hunger strike.


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