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[Assistance in hunger strikes: legal guidelines]


Gevers JK


Academisch Medisch Centrum, afd. Sociale Geneeskunde, Amsterdam.


Ned Tijdschr Geneeskd, 144(21):1008-11 2000 May 20


Hunger strikes raise ethical and legal issues, in addition to

societal and medical ones. The World Medical Association adopted

resolutions in 1975 (Declaration of Tokyo) and 1991 (Declaration

of Malta) in which respect for the decision to refuse food was

confirmed. A survey of the relevant international and national

standards shows that in the Netherlands law and policy are more

supportive of respect for food refusal (and against forced

feeding) than would seem to be the case at the international

level. However, respect for the decision of the hunger striker

requires that it is well-considered, informed, and free from group

coercion. The existence of an unambiguous legal framework will not

save the advising physician from difficult dilemmas which will in

particular occur in case of a protracted hunger strike. In

anticipation of expected loss of judgement capacities in

protracted hunger strikers it is advisable that the wishes of the

striker and the professional policy that the physician will adopt

are written down. In case of hunger strike legal standards cannot

fully replace psychological insight, professional ethics and

conscience, however.



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Major MeSH Headings

Civil Rights LJ ; Hunger ; Physician's Role ; Strikes, Employee LJ


Minor MeSH Headings

English Abstract ; Human ; Netherlands ; Strikes, Employee MT

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