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Palestinian Hunger Strikers: Physicians Offer Help

Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, in a letter to the Israeli Prison Services (IPS), offered to supply independent medical professionals to follow up on the prisoners on hunger strike

Based on prior experiences in the world in regards to treating prisoners on hunger strike, various organizations, including the World Medical Association (WMA), concluded that during a hunger strike it is extremely important that the treatment of the prisoners be done by independent doctors that do not come from within the prison system.

The well-being of the prisoner and his expressed wishes regarding his desire to eat, must be the priority of the doctor at all times.

Trust between the prisoner on hunger strike and his doctor are very important. The doctor, in this situation, acts as an intermediary between the striking prisoners and the prison authorities. The doctor must find prisoners, if they exist, who are on hunger strike as a result of pressure applied by other prisoners or others outside of the prison. In addition, this trust is important in order to find prisoners who are being pressured by the prison authorities to end the strike. Also, it is reasonable to assume that a hunger striker will be more willing to take into consideration the professional medical advice of an independent doctor, more than that of a prison doctor.

It is forbidden to force-feed a hunger striker who expressed refusal to this when he is fully competent. When the prisoner is no longer fully competent (or unconscious) the decision whether to force-feed is that of the doctor and must rely on the prisoners wishes which were expressed before he lost mental competency.

Physicians who are member of Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, expressed readiness to tour the various prisons during the strike, and to medically examine the prisoners. This, in full cooperation with the medical staff of the IPS.

Currently, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel is writing a handbook in Hebrew, which will include rules of medical ethics for the medical staff treating the prisoners on hunger strike. The handbook will be based on books and instructions of the WMA and international conventions and declarations.

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