The doctor in charge of trauma and emergency at one of Israel’s biggest hospitals has spoken about the “moral difficulty” of treating terror attack victims and their perpetrators in the same way.
Dr Ofer Merin, who works at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, where more than half of all victims have been treated in the last two months, made the comments while speaking to Jewish News in London this week.
After visiting parliament, Merin said: “There are moral issues. As difficult as it is to treat innocent people and terrorists at the same time, in the same way, with the same level of care, we say patients are patients, we are never judgemental.”
He continued: “It’s not like we’re people without emotions. If a terrorist comes in for treatment, I have my own feelings about it, so it’s difficult, but we must put emotions aside, be professional and treat everyone as a patient.”
He added: “I’m sure we all share the same feelings, but if you treat them differently, then who else might you treat differently? It can be a slippery slope.”
Merin, who has also commanded the IDF’s field hospital unit in response to natural disasters in Nepal, Japan, Philippines and Haiti, said 20 percent of his staff were Arab or Palestinian, but that he does not match their ethnicity to the patient’s.
“We have Arab doctors treating Jewish patients, and in the next bed, Jewish doctors treating Arabs, maybe attackers. I never try to match an Arab physician to an Arab patient, or a Jewish physician to a Jewish patient, even though language makes it easier. It would be like saying: ‘OK, you’re an Arab, you treat the terrorist.’ No, if someone is shot and comes in, he is treated the same as anyone else who is shot.”
Often, he said, it is not even known whether someone is an attacker or a victim until after treatment. “This week, we had a young girl, 17, brought in. She’d been shot. She had 1.5 hours’ surgery and we saved her life. Afterwards, we were in recovery room when one of the operating nurses realised that the girl she’d just saved was a terrorist. No-one had said anything for almost two hours, so she had no idea. That was a very powerful moment in my eyes.”
Merin’s pre-arranged London visit this week was the first time he has left Jerusalem in two months, and he was ever hopeful that the attacks would soon end. In the meantime, he was preparing to head back to the two British-funded Shaare Zedek units to treat more stabbing victims, where it is often difficult to know how far the knife has penetrated and in what direction.
“Ten days ago we had a 40-year old mother-of-eight come in, stabbed in the back. The knife was still in. It had penetrated her spinal column. Thank God we were able to take it out, and she will walk again. It doesn’t always end like that.”