Protest against Knesset bill on force feeding hunger-striking prisoners.
Protest against Knesset bill on force feeding hunger-striking prisoners. Sign says 'Guantanamo is here.' Photo by Emil Salman
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The heads of the World Medical Association on Thursday asked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to reconsider the proposed law allowing the force feeding of hunger-striking prisoners. In a letter, WMA President Dr. Margaret Mungherera and chairman Dr. Mukesh Haikerwal called the practice “tantamount to torture.”

“Force feeding is violent, often painful and absolutely against the principle of individual autonomy. It is a degrading treatment, inhumane and may amount to torture. Worse still, it is the most unsuitable approach to save lives,” they wrote.

The letter was in response to a letter sent to the WMA on Wednesday by 18 human rights organizations from around the world, asking the association to intervene to stop or prevent the practice in various countries, including Israel.

In its letter, the WMA heads said there are far better ways to deal with hunger strikes. “Evidence showed the best results were obtained when the patient/physician relationship was maintained, even under the difficult circumstance of a hunger strike. This included patient confidentiality, proper medical care and advice from the physician, while respecting the free will of the patient. Force feeding is completely incompatible with this methodology and it destroys any patient/ physician trust.”

The WMA said it fully supports the initiatives for medical care proposed by the Israeli Medical Association and recommends to Netanyahu “putting your trust in their professional medical management rather than in a degrading and inhumane treatment which usually fails and is of questionable ethical and moral construction.”

The Knesset is scheduled to vote on the bill in second and third readings on Monday, after approving it in preliminary reading this week. The NGOs say the bill is being pushed through with unprecedented haste.