Debating Forced Medical Feeding: a Critical Examination of Israeli Responses to Hunger Strikes
Professor Noam Zohar, Bar Ilan University
Thursday, 20 February 2020, 5.30pm to 7pm
Lecture Theatre, St Cross College, 61 St Giles, Oxford OX1 3LZ
The New St Cross Special Ethics Seminars are jointly arranged by the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics and the Wellcome Centre for Ethics and Humanities (WEH).
In this talk, I will critically examine Israeli institutional responses to hunger strikes (mainly by Palestinian prisoners). A crucial part of the background is the unique clause 15 of Israel's Patient’s Rights Act of 1996, which allows forced, life-saving treatment in the expectation of retroactive consent. Recently, however, the government initiated legislation aimed to mandate forced feeding for reasons that include not only concern for the hunger striker's life, but also concern for state security. The National Bioethics Council unanimously opposed this expansion of grounds for forced treatment, though a minority within the Council endorsed placing hunger strikers in a separate category from other patients. I will discuss the ethical and political values expressed in this debate, as well as the contestable notion of retroactive consent.
Noam Zohar is Professor of Philosophy in Bar Ilan University, and Director of its Graduate Program in Bioethics; and a member of Israel's National Bioethics Council. He has received visiting fellowships at Harvard University and at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. His research and teaching are in the fields of Moral and Political Philosophy, with an emphasis on Applied Ethics – particularly bioethics and the ethics of warfare; as well as the fields of Rabbinics and Philosophy of Halakhah. His publications include numerous essays and several books in the above fields, and (with Michael Walzer, and Menachem Lorberbaum) is editor of the series The Jewish Political Tradition (Yale University Press: Volume 1: Authority ; Volume 2: Membership ; Volume 3: Community  and Volume 4: Politics in History, [forthcoming]).