The Doctors Syndicate targets the minister who claimed that faith is a reason for refusing treatment

The Central Medical Association of Israel has launched a national advertising campaign to oppose what it considers a government minister’s assault on medical ethics.

In response to controversial comments last month by far-right Minister for National Missions Orit Struck, the Israel Medical Association ran ads on TV and radio asserting that doctors would never discriminate in the care they provide.

The two-day advertising campaign was timed to coincide with Doctors’ Day on Wednesday, an annual event in which many Israelis express their thanks to their doctors with cards and social media posts.

Struck caused a stir last month, shortly before her ministerial appointment, when she said doctors should be allowed to refuse to provide treatments that conflict with their religious faith, as long as another doctor is willing to offer the same treatment.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dismissed her stance, but IMA Vice President Dr. Ze’ev Feldman said his organization decided to take to the airwaves out of fear that her comments could shape government policy or national discourse.

Feldman said he believes accepting Struck’s position could enable doctors to decline a range of treatments, including fertility treatment for unmarried women, abortions and specialized care for LBGTQ Israelis.

Dr.. Zeev Feldman, Vice President of the Israel Medical Association. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

“Our campaign makes it very clear that this cannot happen,” he told The Times of Israel on Wednesday. “We will stand by the oath we all have taken, and treat each person to the best of our ability, regardless of race, gender, and any other factors.”

Speaking last month, Struck stated that “if a doctor is asked to give any kind of treatment to a person who would violate their religious faith, if there is another doctor who can do that, you can’t force them to give the treatment,” she said. Cannes Public Broadcasting. The religious Zionist legislator claimed that religious belief is sometimes “trampled” in the context of anti-discrimination rules.

But Feldman said the medical community is close to a “consensus” that medical ethics is based on the fact that a patient’s identity and life choices should never prevent a doctor from providing the best level of care.

“The Israeli health care system has a reputation, and we are very proud of it, of treating everyone equally,” Feldman said. “Jewish and Arab doctors work together in a system that does not discriminate against anyone, and this must remain.”

Feldman added that healthcare workers are “an island of sanity and professionalism in a turbulent society and we want to keep it free from intrusiveness based on political agendas and focused on patients.”

Medical ethicists in Israel say equality in treatment is not negotiable. Shimon Glick, a former Health Ministry ombudsman and professor emeritus at Ben-Gurion University, said he didn’t want to talk specifically about Struck, but commented on Wednesday: “Doctors in the Western world are responsible for treating everyone, PMS, and the Jewish position in this way as well.”

Dr. Shimon Glick speaks at the 2018 Department of Medicine Ceremony at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev School of Medicine for International Health. (Danny Matchless)

He said that this is not limited to life-saving procedures, but includes a full range of medical services. He gave the example of a fertility clinic, which provides artificial insemination, saying that a doctor working there would not have reasons to refuse to treat an unmarried woman based on a personal belief that children should be born to married parents.

Glick, who is ultra-Orthodox, is known for his expertise in Jewish medical ethics, and is the father of former right-wing Likud MP Yehuda Glick. He told The Times of Israel that “a person may not consent to homosexuality, for example, but as a doctor he has an obligation to treat that person exactly as he would treat any other person.”

Jeremy Sharon contributed to this report.

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