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Medics criminalised by Turkish health law

The BMA has expressed dismay over the Turkish president’s decision to sign a health bill criminalising doctors for providing emergency care without government authorisation.

Abdullah Gül (pictured right) signed the controversial health bill last week.

It punishes health professionals with heavy fines and a prison sentence of up to three years if they provide
emergency care without state approval.

Last year, doctors and other health professionals provided care to thousands of people injured in protests against
the Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan amid concerns the health department was not doing enough.

BMA director of professional activities Vivienne Nathanson said: ‘There are serious concerns about medical confidentiality, through which this bill drives a coach and horses, in addition to the bizarre spectacle of criminalising doctors offering aid to those in need, but where the doctor has not been approved to provide care.

'The impact on the health of the Turkish population could be immense; the international community should continue to protest to the Turkish government.’

Chance to oppose

The health law will take effect as soon as it is published, although the opposition party has 60 days to submit a case against it to the constitutional court.

The court has the power to suspend application of the bill during the case, which may take up to a year to resolve.

Health organisations from across the world, including the BMA, have previously written to the Turkish president and health minister to protest against the law.

They warn it violates international standards in human rights and medical ethics that state health workers should be able to carry out professional responsibilities to provide emergency care without interference or fear of reprisal.

Legal cases against clinicians who provided emergency medical care during protests in Gezi Park last year are expected to begin in May.

Other controversial provisions in the health law include the call for doctors to be fined and then jailed for not sharing patient information with the government.

Read about the BMA's work on human rights

The story so far

Turkish president urged to reject emergency care law

World puts pressure on Turkey to drop new laws

Call to stop criminalisation of emergency care