Report: Gazans treated in Israel in life-threatening cases only
Human rights organizations say patients prevented from leaving Gaza for important medical procedures ‘against ethical codes.’ Government’s coordinator in territories: Report biased; we’ve approved more than 9,000 cases a year
Muhammad Abu Mustafa, a 52-year-old Gaza resident, suffers from a spinal disc herniation, which results in pain along his arm and numbness. Israel refuses to let him leave the Strip for a medical procedure in Jerusalem. His case is one of the examples included in a report authored by several organizations, which are accusing Israel of preventing medical treatment.
“He has 10 children and his life has turned into hell. He can’t sleep at night and all the pain killers he received no longer help,” his brother-in-law, Abed Rabbo Abu Mustafa, told Ynet.
Abu Mustafa was directed to the St. Joseph Hospital in east Jerusalem, and was turned down with the claim that his condition was not life-threatening.
According to an opinion written by Dr. Nachshon Shazar, an orthopedics specialist who examined the case, Abu Mustafa’s situation “could sometimes lead to a sudden deterioration which may lead to paralysis.”
The coordinator of the government’s activities in the territories said in response that the request was denied after it was revealed that such treatment is available in the Strip.
“We don’t have this treatment in Gaza and his condition is only getting worse,” the brother-in-law insisted. “It’s true that it’s not a life-saving procedure, but it’s also true that if he won’t receive immediate care he will become paralyzed. Muhammad was never turned down for security reasons. We have no explanation for the decision not to let him in.”
The Adalah organization, Physicians for Human Rights and Palestinian human rights group al-Mizan, published a joint statement accusing Israel of “implementing a consistent policy of distinguishing between life-threatening medical cases and other medical cases, as a basis for preventing patients from leaving the Gaza Strip for medical treatment.”
According to Adalah and the Gaza-based al-Mizan group, restricting the treatment for people who are not in a life-threatening condition is against medical ethical rules and international law. The organizations said they reached this conclusion based on an analysis of the cases in which Israel turned down appeals from Gazan patients to leave the Strip for medical treatment.
Expert: Considerations political
Data compiled by the organizations point to a high correlation between the level of risk and the authorities’ tendency to accept the request. The organizations said they had received 40 complaints from Gaza patients who had been turned down over the past few days.
“Even medical cases which are not life-threatening and which were rejected by Israel may still be medically urgent and lead to the loss of vital organs, loss of sight, disability, and etcetera.
“Making a distinction between a life-threatening and a non-life threatening medical condition contradicts medical ethics, according to which any patient or injured person must be given access to the best medical care available for them, regardless of the treatment’s urgency or the severity of the medical condition.
“This distinction contradicts the rules of humanitarian law and the international human rights law which recognize the right to life, the right to the integrity of one’s body and the right to human dignity, which are recognized as basic rights in Israel law as well.”
Dr. Harel Arzi, an orthopedic surgeon and a volunteer in Physicians for Human Rights, believes the distinction is “only semantic”, adding that Israel’s considerations are not only medical but also political.
The coordinator of the government’s activities in the territories said in response, “The report is biased and was written without giving Israel the right to respond. In 2009, the coordinator of the government’s activities in the territories and the Coordination and Liaison Authority in Gaza coordinated the departure of more than 9,000 Palestinian patients and their escorts from Gaza to receive military treatment in Israel.
“We regret the organization’s decision to publish these reports in a consistent and biased manner without cooperating and coordinating with Israeli elements.”