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Stop the Harassment of Turkish Doctors

The Turkish government is targeting and harassing physicians who provided emergency medical care to injured demonstrators and bystanders during the Gezi Park protests that began in May 2013. The government has gone so far as to take up legal cases against members of the Turkish Medical Association.

All governments have an obligation to respect the ethical responsibilities of physicians and other health care workers to care for those in need. Instead of punishing doctors for adhering to their professional duty, the Turkish government should be thanking them for helping the wounded in a time of crisis.

Prime Minister Erdoğan must respect the professional duty of medical personnel to provide medical care to all, regardless of their political views, and must immediately end the legal suit against members of the Turkish Medical Association.

Recipients

  • Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan

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Stop the Harassment of Turkish Doctors

Dear Prime Minister Erdogan,

I am deeply concerned that the Ministry of Health is taking punitive actions against physicians who acted ethically in providing emergency medical care to demonstrators and bystanders injured during the Gezi Park protests that began in May 2013. I ask that you take action to immediately and unconditionally drop the Ministry of Health's current legal actions against members of the Turkish Medical Association (TMA).

On January 27, 2014, the Ministry of Health brought a court suit against the members of the governing and disciplinary boards of the TMA's Ankara Chamber of Medicine and requested their removal from office on the grounds that they "established healthcare units called infirmaries illicitly and without control and supervision and thus engaged in activities out of its mission."

As you know, thousands of demonstrators were injured during the Gezi Park protests in dozens of cities across Turkey. The TMA recruited and organized physicians to provide urgently needed emergency medical care to injured demonstrators. Medical care took place in mosques, shopping malls, hotels anywhere possible and for only as long as the need existed. Such spontaneous and idiosyncratic medical relief efforts cannot be characterized as "established healthcare units." The TMA not only followed international standards of medical ethics at great personal risk, they also acted in accordance with the Turkish Penal Code, which makes it a crime for medical personnel to neglect their duty of providing emergency medical care to those in need.

Physicians should never be punished for following their professional duty of providing care without discrimination to those in need. I am gravely concerned by the actions that have been taken against the TMA and the provisions contained in the new health law, which criminalizes emergency medical care and requires routine reporting of all confidential patient information to state authorities.

The Turkish government has an obligation to respect the sacred duty of physicians to care for those in need, and uphold people's right to health.

I call upon the you, Prime Minister Erdogan, and the Turkish government to respect the professional duty of all medical personnel to provide medical care to those in need, including injured demonstrators, and immediately and unconditionally end the legal suit against TMA members.

Sincerely,
[Your Name]