Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Hippocratic Oath trumps security fears at Israeli hospitals

From Haaretz: Hippocratic Oath trumps security fears at Israeli hospitals

The commitment of Israeli hospitals to treating perpetrators of terror, says Charles Sprung, director of the general intensive care unit at Hadassah in Ein Karem, and head of the hospital’s Institute of Medicine, Ethics and Law – is indeed one of those things that cannot be changed. Nor, he stresses, should it be....

Sprung, a religious man, also cites the Oath of Maimonides, the famed 12th-century Jewish physician, which obligates doctors to “never see in the patient anything but a fellow creature in pain.” Sprung shrugs. That is all there is to it, really...

“Is it incumbent upon individuals in a nation whose very existence is constantly being threatened to act compassionately toward those who set out to destroy them?” asks Avi Rivkind, head of Hadassah’s Division of Emergency Medicine and Trauma, in an oft-quoted 2009 paper co-authored with colleagues from the IDF and Haifa's Rambam Medical Center in the American Journal of Bioethics (“Medical Care for Terrorists – To Treat or Not to Treat” by Gesundheit, Ash, Blazer and Rivkind). “Should hospitals expend limited public health care resources on a terrorist, thereby perhaps depriving other patients of medical care?” the authors wonder. 

The answer, they conclude, is clearly “yes.” 

“It’s not that we applaud what such terrorists do,” explains Rivkind, who has spent 30 years at Hadassah, a hospital which, due to its location and the fact that it runs a sophisticated trauma unit, says it has over the years treated more terror victims – and terrorists – than any other medical institution in the country. 

“Quite the opposite. They take human lives whereas we try to save them. There is a big discrepancy between us and no bridge" between terrorists and physicians, he says. “But we have our obligations under the Hippocratic Oath. So, at the end of the day, there is really no question.” 

Read it all at Haaretz

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