Israel Reflections 2017–Treating Terrorists and Other Medical Challenges

Posted on Categories Health Care, Human Rights, International Law & Diplomacy, Marquette Law School, Public

Television camras and microphones surround Dr. Ofer Merin dressed in doctor's scrubs.One other new visit this year was with Dr. Ofer Merin, a commander of the Israel Defense Force (IDF) Medical Field Unit and emergency room doctor at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem.   As student Margo Clark notes, his roles often require both flexibility and understand beyond our immediate biases.

Dr. Ofer Merin is the Chief of the IDF Field Hospital, which travels to different countries to offer assistance in times of need. One example of the IDF Field Hospital’s greatest accomplishments is its ability to be the only field hospital from a foreign country to help the Japanese people after they were devastated by a tsunami. Their success comes from the amount of flexibility and understanding that Dr. Merin and his team work under. Rather than pushing their own system, Dr. Merin and his team worked under and around Japanese law. Under Japanese law, it is illegal for a foreign doctor to treat a Japanese citizen.  The team was flexible and put the Japanese people first. Their flexibility is exemplified by their assisting and enabling Japanese doctors to treat the large number of Japanese people who were in need. By foregoing their egos and putting understanding and flexibility first, Dr. Merin and his team were the only foreign field hospital team to be allowed to help the Japanese people.  Here is a MSNBC news report showing the IDF work in Haiti from 2010.

Dr. Merin’s flexibility and understanding is continually shown in his additional role as the Deputy Director of the Shaare Zedek Medical Center. This center is known for simultaneously treating terrorists and the victims of their attacks. It is excessively difficult to imagine how hard it must be to treat a terrorist. However, Dr. Merin understands the consequences of both treating and not treating terrorists and being beyond reproach as far as bias towards his patients. As a doctor, he is an example of following the Hippocratic oath and doing no harm under stressful conditions where many would be tempted to be biased and fail their duties as doctors. His example is important because if he can work without bias towards terrorists, doctors everywhere should use his example to attempt to work without any sort of bias.

However, working without bias does not mean working without an understanding of people. Dr. Ofer Merin understands the families of both the terrorists and the victims. Part of his working without bias towards terrorists includes protecting them and their families just as much as he protects the victims and their families. He protects each side by ensuring that they are in completely different wings of the medical center and kept completely separate. The terrorist and his or her family is protected from potential retaliation. This protection is also important for the victims and their families. The victims and their families do not have to go through the pain of having to see their attacker being treated or have the stress of being near their attacker. Dr. Merin works without bias, but does so while also discouraging conflict. While many would say that this is most beneficial to the terrorists, I disagree. By rising above the pain, Dr. Merin discourages any sort of bias, upholds his ideals as a doctor who vowed to do no harm, but still enables the victims to heal separate from confrontation. Dr. Merin does not lower himself or his standards because of the acts of others, but he also ensures that his patients can focus on what is important to them as patients: to heal.

As student Kelsey Anderson noted also in describing Dr. Merin’s work,

I genuinely admired his ability to take both politics and emotion out of his work. I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to have to explain to the victim’s family that you are treating the assailant. This discussion has encouraged me to further explore the required standards of care in situations where the injured patient engaged in terrorism.

Cross-posted at .

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