Gazans Denied Medical Care under Siege - by Stephen Lendman
Two recent reports discuss it, a July Physicians for Human Rights - Israel (PHR-IL) one titled, "A Situation Report on Obstacles Facing Gaza Residents in Need of Medical Treatment," and a June one titled, "Who Gets to Go," jointly prepared by PHR-IL, the Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, and the Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel. All cite Israeli medical ethics and international law violations by discriminating on the basis of need, denying adequate treatment to seriously ill Gazans by:
-- preventing the restoration and development of the Strip's healthcare system; and
-- restricting travel to the West Bank, East Jerusalem, Israel, or neighboring countries for treatment.
In its July report, PHR-IL said Gaza's healthcare system is getting progressively worse "due to a lack of medical expertise, medicine(s) and medical equipment," the ICRC recently saying it's "at an all time low."
In June, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that Israel blocked delivery of essential equipment, including a CT scanner, defibrillators and monitors. In addition, the Palestinian Health Ministry said Israel confiscated seven oxygen machines, donated by a Norwegian development agency, and blocked x-ray machine deliveries, claiming they were dual-use, meaning possibly for military purposes.
As a result, critical shortages of most everything exist, including vital medicines, essential equipment, and other supplies expected to run out this summer, harming chronic disease sufferers the most, hampered by draconian impediments for permission to leave Gaza for treatment - what PHR-IL calls "an inexcusable breach of medical ethics" based on political, not medical considerations, most non-life threatening cases denied, including ones PHR-IL calls urgent, such as for:
"Paraplegia; retinal detachement; SLE (Lupus); foreign body in vitreous; subluxated lens; chronic severe febrile anemia; fever(s) of unknown origin (FUO); traumatic macular hole; psychomotor retardation; anemia; suspected abdominal abnormal vascular pressure; suspected chronic intestinal disease; psedoarthrosis (non-union of fractured bones) - arms, hand; infected plate - hip; deformation of cornea; recurrent dislocation of shoulder; lumbar discopathy; opacity of vitreous; (and) malformation of urinary tract."
Numerous other non-urgent/non-life-threatening ones are also denied, some chronic, severe, painful and/or disabling, badly in need of treatment, including a 24 year old Gaza resident shot in the arm in October 2007, unable to use his hand because of atrophied muscle tissue around the wound area.
As a result, he suffers severe pain, orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Yosef Leitner, saying a tendon transfer is the only hope to restore proper hand functioning, Gaza's Al Shifaa Hospital (the Strip's largest and most advanced) with neither the means or staff to perform it.
In August 2009, an exit request was submitted to receive treatment in East Jerusalem's Al Makassed Hospital. Initially denied, it was appealed and again denied - unprincipled, unethical, illegal, and common practice against Gazans under siege, PHR-IL saying:
"....all patients are entitled to the best available medical treatment, regardless of the urgency....or the severity of their clinical state," legitimate distinctions only permissible in cases of limited resources (such as after a natural disaster), even then for the shortest time possible to restore proper care to everyone in need.
Under international law, denying medical care is illegal, Fourth Geneva's Article 3 saying all non-combatants and those having laid down their arms "shall in all circumstances be treated humanely" with no distinctions for any reasons.
Article 16 states:
"The wounded and sick, as well as the infirm, and expectant mothers, shall be the object of particular protection and respect."
The UN's Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment prohibits mistreatment in any form (including denying medical treatment), as do the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Constitution of the International Criminal Court (the Rome Statute), and civilized countries globally, Israel and America not among them.