Medical Students on Human Rights Violations and Violence Against Healthcare Professionals and Students in Turkey

(updated version)

Highlights

The International Federation of Medical Students’ Association (IFMSA), representing more than a million medical students worldwide condemns the recent acts of violence and human rights violations that have been taking place in Turkey in the last days. The IFMSA calls for the cessation of all kinds of such acts and an end to the violence there to allow for healthcare workers to do their work there. As a general recognition among state and non­-state actors,–physicians and medical students responsibility is to treat every person without discrimination. The targeted acts against health workers not only challenge humanity, but destroy the very fabric of society that creates compassion and care for others. As healers, ­­physicians take an oath to place the health and well­-being of people foremost and do no harm. We remind those that are perpetuating this violence to keep in mind these principles and call for peace.

Main text

In the past days, we have been notified, in addition to media coverage, by several of our constituents from TurkMSIC­­Turkey, our Turkish medical students, and young physicians, sharing their first hand experience on violence in Turkey. Their stories are extremely troubling and reveal that unacceptable acts of unjustified violence and human rights violations are taking place. Moreover, there are also deplorable acts of violence directed towards physicians, health workers and medical students that are providing aid to injured people.

Such acts not only challenge humanity, but destroy the very fabric of society that creates compassion and care for others. As healers­­, physicians, health workers, and medical students commit to place the health and well-­being of people foremost and do no harm.

As a network that reaches more than a million medical students and founded upon principles of understanding, tolerance and peace, IFMSA can not passively ignore this situation. We call upon the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, which exists to protect every person’s basic rights, including those of health workers­­ a declaration that all member states of the United Nations are obligated to adhere by [1] Moreover, we also call upon the Geneva Conventions which provides basic protection for health workers in times of armed conflict [2], thus this protection of health workers cannot be disregarded. If such targeted attacks continue, we fear that less aid will be provided to all people. This will only escalate hostility, conflict and the severity of the injuries and consequences of violent acts will be greater for the people of Turkey. We ask those that are attributing to this situation in Turkey to reflect upon the greater impact and the long­-term effects of continued human rights violations.

Moreover, for those physicians, health workers, and medical students that are taking risks to provide care to the injured and in need, IFMSA would also like to state our admiration and support.

IFMSA, as a body of future physicians and healthcare leaders, reminds all people and institutions, most importantly governments, should respect the following:

●  Health workers, including physicians and medical students, should be protected from intentional danger and violence;

●  Physicians are not to be arrested, hurt, or even murdered based upon their political beliefs or choice on how to express themselves in a peaceful manner, and;

●  Physicians not be discouraged to treat people differently based on their different political, religious or cultural ideologies and should continue to adhere to the Physician’s Oath, adopted by the World Medical Association in 1948, which states that a physician shall “not permit considerations of age, disease or disability, creed, ethnic origin, gender, nationality, political affiliation, race, sexual orientation, social standing or any other factor to intervene between [his] duty and [his] patient.” [3];

●  Respect the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Geneva Conventions and other existing treaties and laws that articulate their responsibilities towards the rights and welfare of health workers;

●  Respect the Physician’s Oath adopted by the World Medical Association in 1948;

●  Establish agencies and mechanisms that will protect the rights and welfare of physicians and even medical students, especially those involved in the care of individuals involved in demonstrations;

●  Respect the fundamental human right of freedom of expression by physicians and medical students, even if they are in opposition or contradiction to the stand of institutions such as the government, and;

●  React appropriately according to the law with regards to proper and lawful procedures in terms of arrest, detainment, trial, and the punishment of physicians to ensure that the law is carried out justly.

●  Call for greater accountability from the perpetrators, whether they are state or non-­state actors;

●  Serve justice to the victims through fair and efficient trial and punishment of perpetrators;

●  Promote the Physician’s Oath which states that health workers are not allowed to
neglect a patient because of differences in political, religious, or cultural ideology, to other sectors, especially the government, military, and police.

About IFMSA

The International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations (IFMSA) is an independent, non­governmental and non­political federation of medical students from 108 National Member Organizations on six continents and over 100 countries. The IFMSA, as a network of National Member Organizations of future physicians around the world, strongly believes in collaboration and joint efforts aiming to improve the situation of students in medical professions worldwide and to ensure the increase of well­trained and appropriately deployed health workforce.

The IFMSA was founded in 1951 and is run for and by medical students on a non­profit basis. It is officially recognized as a Non Governmental Organization within the United Nations system, and is recognized by the World Health Organization as the International Forum for medical students. It exists to serve medical students all over the world. IFMSA is built around six standing Committees: Human Rights and Peace, Reproductive Health including AIDS, Public Health, Professional Exchange, Research Exchange and Medical Education.

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