On January 18th, Turkish President Abdullah Gul passed a highly controversial bill that makes it a crime for doctors to provide emergency first aid without government authorization.
Last June, during the street protests against authoritarian Prime Minister Erdogan, physicians formed medical camps for protesters all over the nation when government officials allowed the police force to brutally retaliate through water canons, beatings, and even a chemical weapon called Agent Orange (Read more about it in a previous article here). Critics of the bill say that it is an effort by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to prevent physicians from treating protesters and thereby repress anti-government sentiment in the country. Medical personnel who violate the new law can be sentenced for up to 3 years in prison and fined up to $1 million.
Dr. Hande Arpat of the Ankara Chamber of Medical Doctors, a heroic medical volunteer during last year’s protests, pointed out the hypocrisy of this new bill. He states: “Not only does the law go against all of our professional and ethical duties, [and] international human rights agreements that Turkey is party to, but it also contradicts the Turkish criminal code that obliges all medical professionals to provide medical aid to those who need it.”
Many health professionals who aided injured protesters last year were targeted by the government and are still facing trial. With this new law, the numbers of prosecuted medical personnel may increase.
1. What are the government’s motives in passing this bill? Are these motives unjust?
2. How will physicians and health professionals respond?
3. Will other organizations (national or international) get involved to repeal this law?
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