ZAKA volunteers at scene of a terror attack. They agree with Cherlow's view that the victim must be treated first. (ZAKA) (ZAKA)
terror attack
yuval cherlow

Rabbi Yuval Cherlow (Wikipedia)

“If it’s clear who the terrorist and victim are and there’s only one doctor, the doctor should first take care of the victim and not the terrorist, even if the terrorist’s medical situation is worse.” – Rabbi Yuval Cherlow, ethics committee, Ministry of Health 

Earlier this week, the Israel Medical Association’s (IMA) ethics committee announced that patients should be prioritized for medical treatment according to medical considerations alone. Since such a standard could theoretically include a scenario in which a terrorist could be treated before a victim, many in Israel have spoken out against the IMA’s position.

“A terrorist is not someone who I would prioritize in any medical field,” ZAKA emergency response volunteer Yossi Fraenkel, told Tazpit Press Service (TPS). “My priority would be the victims.”

The IMA announced the change after “Physicians for Human Rights” accused Israel of acting contrary to international medical ethics and human rights. However, Fraenkel argued that the most moral standard is not the one currently being pushed by the IMA and Physicians for Human Rights.

“We as medical volunteers look at the morality of the situation, and the moral standing in society is to help the injured and not the injurer,” continued Fraenkel.

“Once we’ve finished helping the victims, then we can go and deal with the terrorists, but our priority should be the victims.”

Fraenkel added that the IMA’s position contradicts the very principles expressed by his organization’s name, specifically the principle to serve victims.

‘Even Morality Has its Boundaries’

“Our acronym ZAKA stands for our name Zihuy Korbanot Ason, which means ‘Disaster Victim Identification,’” Fraenkel explained. “By definition, we assist the victims first before assisting the terrorist.”

Earlier, ZAKA Chairman Rabbi Yehuda Meshi-Zahav made similar remarks. “In spite of the ethical code that says one should treat the most severely injured first, one should know that even morality has its boundaries,” he said. “If we do not make this distinction, we lose our direction.”

Rabbi Yuval Cherlow, a member of the ethics committee of the Health Ministry, made a similar moral argument opposing the IMA’s announcement this week.

“The problem with the position of the IMA is that they said there should only be one factor that the doctor or medical crew should use when they answer an emergency call, and that factor is the medical situation of all the injured people in an emergency,” Rabbi Cherlow told TPS.

“I think that position is wrong ethically because, first of all, medical staff cannot be expected to only use one factor in determining which patient to treat first. But more specifically, the IMA’s standard makes no distinction between the attacker and the innocent people, or the terrorist and the victims.”

Same Standard Regardless of Ethnicity

Like ZAKA, Rabbi Cherlow believes that victims should be treated before terrorists. “If it’s clear who the terrorist and victim are and there’s only one doctor, the doctor should first take care of the victim and not the terrorist even if the terrorist’s medical situation is worse,” he said.

Fraenkel and Rabbi Cherlow both believe the standard should be the same regardless of ethnic identity. “It doesn’t make a difference who the terrorist is,” Fraenkel stressed.  “If the terrorist is Jewish or Muslim or whatever background, our priority is to help the victims.”

“There is no difference between a Jewish and Arab attacker,” Rabbi Cherlow agreed. It would be unjust to treat the terrorist before the victim, he added.

“Justice is something inherent in Judaism,” Rabbi Cherlow stated. “There is no doubt that according to Jewish ethical principles, we should abide by the verse in Deuteronomy that says, ‘Justice, justice shall you pursue.’’’

‘’That means justice must be part of our profession and not a byproduct.’’

Member of Knesset and former Minister of Foreign Affairs also slammed the IMA ruling.

“This is an inhumane decision, which testifies that those who made it simply don’t live in reality,” he stated, calling on medical professionals to rally against it.

By: Jonathan Benedek/TPS and United with Israel Staff