Turkish President Abdullah Gül Signs Bill into Law that Criminalizes Emergency Medical Care

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) expressed concern today over the Turkish president’s signing of a bill that will criminalize certain aspects of emergency care, and punish medical professionals with fines and jail time for providing care in emergencies.

Abdullah Gül, president of the Turkish Republic, today signed the bill into law.

PHR, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to health, the World Medical Association, the British Medical Association, the German Medical Association, and other leading medical groups have all criticized the bill, which could compromise everyone’s access to emergency medical care in Turkey.

“Passing a bill that criminalizes emergency care and punishes those who care for injured protestors is part of the Turkish government’s relentless effort to silence any opposing voices,” said Dr. Vincent Iacopino, PHR’s senior medical advisor. “This kind of targeting of the medical community is not only repugnant, but puts everyone’s health at risk. The legislation conflicts with Turkey’s own laws, and must now be blocked through Turkey’s constitutional court.”

In addition to violating international standards and medical ethics, the bill conflicts with the Turkish Penal Code, which makes it a crime for doctors to neglect their duty of providing medical care.

Medical professionals could be imprisoned for up to three years and fined up to approximately $985,000 for providing essential medical services. The bill will put doctors in direct conflict with their ethical and professional responsibilities to care for the sick and wounded. It is part of the Turkish government’s continuing effort to harass the medical community for treating those in need, including demonstrators injured during last summer’s anti-government protests.