For Immediate Release
The Turkish parliament passed a bill today that will criminalize emergency medical care and punish doctors with heavy fines and imprisonment for assisting those in need. Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is urging the president of the Turkish Republic, Abdullah Gul, not to sign the bill, which would have a chilling effect on access to medical care.
Leading medical groups, including the World Medical Association, the British Medical Association, and the German Medical Association, have cautioned about the dire consequences the bill would have on medical care. The UN Special Rapporteur on the right to health has warned about the chilling effect such a law would have on accessing care.
“There is a reason the medical community is speaking out so strongly against the bill,” said Dr. Vincent Iacopino, PHR’s senior medical advisor. “The Turkish government’s intolerance of opposition is so great that it is willing to compromise its citizens’ access to care in emergencies and incarcerate physicians for simply following their ethical duty of caring for those in need. The international medical community is calling upon President Abdullah Gul to refuse to sign this bill into law because it undermines the health of Turkish citizens and their trust in the medical community.”
Article 46, which would restrict medical professionals’ ability to provide care in emergencies, is part of a larger package of bills by the Ministry of Health. Legislators have inserted language in the bill that states emergency services by authorized personnel would only be allowed “until the arrival of formal health services and health service becomes continuous.” These vague and unnecessary conditions about who could provide medical care and when will result in the arbitrary arrest and punishment of emergency medical responders.
The provision puts doctors in direct conflict with their ethical and professional responsibilities to care for the sick and wounded. It is part of the Turkish government’s continuing effort to punish doctors and other medical professionals for treating everyone in need, including demonstrators during last summer’s anti-government protests.
PHR has documented the Turkish government’s unlawful use of force and tear gas, as well as deliberate attacks on the medical community. PHR’s recent report on the protests in Turkey last summer discussed not only the authorities’ detention of medical staff who treated those injured by the police, but also the government’s efforts to collect the names of injured demonstrators and those treating them.
Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.