Palestinian prisoner on hunger strikes loses consciousness
by Daily Sabah with Wires
ISTANBULAug 15, 2015 - 12:00 am GMT+3
by Daily Sabah with Wires
Aug 15, 2015 12:00 am
A Palestinian detainee in the ninth week of his hunger strike fell unconscious at an Israeli hospital on Friday in a case that could test Israel's new force-feeding law. Mohammed Allan, 31, a Palestinian activist, began the strike after his detention without trial in November. Barzilai hospital in Ashkelon said he had been put on a respirator and a saline drip and his condition was stable.
Israel has long been concerned that hunger strikes by Palestinians in its jails could end in deaths and trigger waves of protests in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. At the heart of the matter is the new, contentious law that allows a judge to sanction force-feeding or administration of medical treatment if there is a threat to an inmate's life, even if the prisoner refuses. The law passed by a slim margin in July and elicited harsh criticism. Critics call force-feeding an unethical violation of patient autonomy and akin to torture. The Israeli Medical Association, which has urged physicians not to cooperate, is challenging the law in the Supreme Court. "There have been clashes between the IMA and the government, but never on such basic ethical issues," said Raphi Walden, a physician and member of the group Physicians for Human Rights-Israel.
Under the new law, Israel's prison service needs to seek permission from the attorney general to ask a judge to allow the force-feeding of a prisoner. The judge would then weigh a doctor's opinion, the prisoner's position as well as security considerations before ruling in the matter, according to the Israeli physicians' group.
Doctors have not known how serious Allan's situation has been lately because he refused to submit to an examination. "The condition of Mohammed Allan deteriorated this morning. He is receiving treatment and his condition is stable. The treatment is being administered according to the ethics committee guidelines and includes respiration and intravenous fluids and saline," the hospital said in a statement. It said that a doctor from the International Committee of the Red Cross had come to the hospital.
In Gaza, supporters of Allan said it would hold Israel responsible if Allan died and hinted it could respond with violence. "In view of (Israeli) intransigence and their rejection of the demands of Mohammed Allan we hold them fully responsible for his life and if he dies, it will force us to defend our people and our prisoners," a statement said.
On Wednesday, some 200 supporters of Allan clashed with Israeli right-wingers near the hospital. Mounted police and other officers dispersed the fracas and a number of protesters were detained and questioned, a police spokeswoman said.
The 30-year-old Allan was arrested in November 2014 and detained without charge for two six-month periods, under a measure called administrative detention.
His father, Naser Allan said he slipped into unconsciousness on Friday, and was moved from a ward at Barzalai hospital in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon to the facility's intensive care unit. An Arab-Israeli lawmaker, Osama Saadi, from the Arab List party, was at the hospital in Ashkelon and spoke with doctors there. He said the hospital is providing Allan with liquids administered intravenously but not force-feeding him. It was not clear what the liquids were. Saadi told The Associated Press that Allan is not in a coma yet and that doctors were doing brain and head scans to determine his condition.
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan Mendez, has called force-feeding, even if intended for the patient's benefit, "tantamount to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment." For now, doctors at the hospitals involved with Allan's case have remained publicly united against the law and dozens of doctors protested this week against it. But some see keeping the patient alive as their primary ethical duty.
To force feed, the doctor must restrain the conscious and shackled prisoner and insert a tube into his or her empty stomach. Force-feeding can cause serious pain as well as damage to the esophagus and lungs, according to Walden. In the most serious cases, two Palestinian prisoners died from complications from force-feeding in the 1980's, after which the practice fell out of use, said Raphi Walden, a physician and member of the group Physicians for Human Rights-Israel.
While Israel's new law applies to all prisoners held in Israeli jails, Palestinian prisoners have used hunger strikes as a tool to draw attention to their detention without trial or charges. Scores of Palestinian inmates have held rounds of hunger strikes over recent years and, with many prisoners hospitalized, their failing health has caused tensions to flare among Palestinians.
Israel in the past has acceded to hunger-striking prisoners' demands and has sometimes released prisoners. In June, Israel released Khader Adnan, 36, another Palestinian activist, after he carried out a 55-day hunger strike to protest his detention.