February 18, 2009

Dracula in charge of blood bank rumours

Here's a curious letter in today's Guardian:
There can be no greater affront to civilisation than the involvement of doctors in torture (Whitehall devised torture policy for terror detainees, 17 February). Yet there is an appalling history of just such unethical behaviour, not least in Nazi concentration camps. There are suspicions that doctors are involved in torture at Guantánamo and indeed the BMA has debated this and called for action from the World Medical Association. Now we hear that our own government is incriminated and tainted by torture. President Obama has set out to improve his nation's standing by closing Guantánamo. We urge the new president of the World Medical Association, Dr Blachar, from the Israel Medical

Association, to condemn such activity and demand the UK government guarantee no doctors are involved in this grisly, inhuman practice.
Ian Banks, Helena McKeown, David Wrigley, Frank Wells, Anna Athow, Steve Hajioff, Kailash Chand
BMA council members

Oh great! A member of the Israel Medical Association is the president of the World Medical Association. I remember hearing stuff about this Blachar character and here's a piece of a letter that doctors were being urged to sign:
Amnesty International concluded as long ago as 1996 that Israeli doctors working with the security services “formed part of a system in which detainees are tortured, ill treated and humiliated in ways that place prison medical practice in conflict with medical ethics”. (3) Dr Blachar, already IMA President, took no action. Amnesty’s briefing to the UN Committee against Torture in September 2008 “focuses on Amnesty International’s (continuing) concerns about Israel’s failure to implement the Convention against Torture in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and the intensification of measures amounting to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment”.(4)
Here are the notes:
3 Amnesty International. “Under constant medical supervision”, torture, ill-treatment and the health professions in Israel and the Occupied Territories. London. Amnesty International. MDE 15/37/96. 1996.
4 Amnesty International. Israel/OPT. Briefing to the Committee Against Torture. MDE 15/040/2008. 2008.

And there's more on the good doctor:
Dr Blachar went as far as to justify the use in Israel of “moderate physical pressure” (condemned as torture by the UN Committee Against Torture) in the fourth paragraph of a letter published in the international medical journal The Lancet in 1997 (7) This surely unprecedented action by the president of a national medical association has not been disowned, and renders him unfit for the office of WMA President. In the age of evidence-based medicine his rejection of the documentary record has been unprofessional and frequently contemptuous, as when on the British Medical Journal website he labelled as “the lies and filth he spews” and “anti-semitic” a BMJ publication which cited Amnesty, Johns Hopkins University, the International Court of Justice, a UN Rapporteur and Physicians for Human Rights Israel. (8) IMA membership of WMA appears to have been a figleaf: The IMA website pays lip service to medical ethics but Dr Blachar has overseen a studied failure to take the actions mandated by the Declaration of Tokyo.
And here are the notes to that piece:
7 Blachar Y. The truth about Israeli medical ethics. Lancet 1997;350: 1247.
8 Blachar Y. Response from the Israeli Medical Association. Rapid Responses, bmj.com, 15 December 2004

Now what on earth does the World Medical Association exist for?

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