Medics at terror sites must treat the wounded according to the severity of their injuries, even if that means helping an attacker before his victims, the Israeli Medical Association said in rules published this week.
The new rules, formulated by the IMA’s Ethics Bureau, came into effect at the beginning of the week and replace an earlier directive based on the principle of “charity begins at home,” which enabled medical professionals to treat victims first, the Hebrew-language Israel Hayom newspaper reported Wednesday.
The decision to change the directive was made during a heated meeting last week held at the request of Physicians for Human Rights, which appealed to the bureau, claiming the previous rules contradicted accepted medical ethics and international humanitarian laws.
Senior doctors in the IMA told Israel Hayom that the change in guidelines was not publicly announced for fear of a political backlash amid almost daily Palestinian attacks for the past three months.
While Israeli doctors and medical staff see it as an ethical duty to attend to the injuries of terrorists and treat them the same as victims, until the recent change they could give priority when doing triage to victims rather than perpetrators.
Tammy Karni, who heads the ethics panel, said the previous rules required doctors to verify who was an attacker and who was a victim, a sometimes impossible task.
“Doctors are not judges. The implication of leaving the [previous] directive was that the doctor needs to investigate who was responsible and punish him by not giving him treatment,” she told Israel Hayom.
According to the report, the Ethics Bureau is the only body that decides ethical standards for Israeli medical staff and its rulings apply to doctors, paramedics, emergency services and nurses.
There have been a number of cases of innocent people being attacked amid the chaos in the aftermath of a terror attack. In October, an Eritrean national was mistakenly shot, beaten and only later attended to after a terror attack in Beersheba. Doctors said the delay may have contributed to his death.
Palestinians have alleged that Israeli medics often ignore wounded assailants after attacks, which sometimes leads to their deaths.
The “charity begins at home” rule was laid down in 2008 by a group of doctors in the Ethics Bureau, including Pini Halperin, director of Emergency Medicine at Ichilov Hopsital in Tel Aviv, who lamented the change in orders.
“If there is, for example, a decision of life or death for the casualties, it is appropriate to first treat ‘what matters to me,’ that is to say the victims of terror, Jews and Arabs alike — and only after the enemy who is carrying out a terror attack,” he told Israel Hayom.
Halperin added that the ethics bureau should instead have clarified the terms of the “charity begins at home” rule according to the rules for dealing with enemy forces rather than canceling it altogether.
Leader of the Yisrael Beytenu party MK Avigdor Liberman slammed what he called a “disgraceful decision.”
“This is a non-humanitarian decision, that testifies that those who made it simply don’t live in reality,” he wrote on his Facebook page. “Doctors must rise up against this decision and change it.”
More than 20 Israelis have been killed in three months of near-daily stabbing, shooting, and car-ramming terror attacks by Palestinians targeting civilians and security forces.
More than 100 Palestinians have also been killed, a large proportion of them assailants shot as they carried out attacks, including some who were teenagers.
Other Palestinians have been killed during violent clashes with Israeli security forces.