New Report Reveals: In Israel’s Health Care System Covering Up Torture and Ill Treatment is the Norm

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New Report Reveals: In Israel’s Health Care System Covering Up Torture and Ill Treatment is the Norm

A new report by the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI) and Physicians for Human Rights – Israel (PHR) based on over 100 complaints reveals that medical professionals are involved in torture and in covering it up, in violation of ethical obligations.
The report details different forms of medical community involvement such as failing to medically document torture, failing to report suspicions of detainee abuse, transmitting medical information to interrogators and returning victims to their interrogators.
According to the report the Israeli health system fully backs medical involvement in torture and fails to provide health workers with the means to uphold their ethical obligations to torture victims.
Human rights organizations, The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI) and Physicians for Human Rights – Israel (PHR) released a pioneering new report that reveals the involvement of physicians in ISA (Shin Bet) torture of interrogees. The report is based on over 100 files that PCATI handled since 2007 in which medical personnel involvement in torture, either directly or indirectly, is demonstrated and this in violation their ethical and moral obligations as medical doctors.  The report reveals different forms of involvement or cover up of torture by physicians in the civilian medical system or by those in the security services such as:
Lack of proper medical reporting regarding injuries
Failing to report possible torture to the authorities that victims report or as is evident in their physical or psychological condition
Returning detainees to their interrogators even when it is clear that they were injured during interrogation
Transmission of medical information to interrogators without the consent of the patient and in violation of the rights of patients
Demonstrated preference for the needs of the interrogator over the good of the patient
The Israeli medical system, both the civilian and those attached to the security establishment, has consistently failed to provide their member physicians with the means to properly uphold their obligations to their patients and to protect torture victims.  There is no channel for reporting suspicions of torture; there is no proper punishment and no protection for those who wish to report torture.  Similarly Israeli medical ethics does not clearly place the integrity of the patient above security needs.
The report reveals a disturbing picture in which physicians, who come into contact with detainees form another layer of protection for government interrogators, who use torture and ill treatment. Physicians consistently fail their detainee patients, many of whom are interrogated in isolation and held incommunicado,  and for whom the physician is his only contact with outside world. With Israel’s systematic impunity as a backdrop, in which over 700 reports of torture to the Attorney General over the past decade have not been investigated, Physician failure to protect is especially disturbing.
Dr. Ishai Menuchin, Executive Director of PCATI said today: “We expect physicians to support helpless people. Much to our surprise the contrary is true where before helpless individuals, cut off from the world but for their interrogators, we find physicians, lacking the most basic human decency, completely backing up the torturers.”  The PHR Ethics Committee in connection to transferring medical information to interrogators: “Reality forces physicians working in detention facilities to balance and give more weight to the interests of their employers and the general public over that of their patient and his individual interests.  In the absence of clear rules and systematic clinical directives derived from professional ethics physicians will continue to be placed in impossible situations that compromise their ethical integrity. “The Ethics Committee stated further that the rules will be effective only if they will come directly from the Ministry of Health which is obligated to support and assistance to physicians chronically facing such dilemmas.

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