Eliana M. Aaron

The Teens, the Student, and the Morality of Health Care Professionals

In the wake of the kidnapping and murder of the three innocent teenage Israelis, Eyal Yifrah, Gil-Ad Shaar, and Naftali Fraenkel, I was appalled and enraged to read about a third year Technion medical student, Morad Abu Alhija, who posted on Facebook that “Team Palestine” scored “three goals” with their murders the day of the discovery of their bodies. This student in an enlightened Israeli institution, is rejoicing in our national pain, celebrating their gruesome demises as a victory for the Palestinian cause, and showing gross indifference for human life. The student claims it was a joke. Morad, THIS IS NEVER FUNNY. The Technion, one of the best scientific institutions in the world, is considering disciplinary action for this student.
Sign from the Unity Rally, 2014

There are several things that the Technion must consider in this action, but the main issues other than the sheer inhumanity displayed in this “celebration” – are the ethical and moral standards of the medical profession. With thousands of Israelis dreaming of entering medicine, and struggling to be accepted into the relatively few coveted medical school slots in the country – how can our society allow someone into this sacrosanct profession who has no sense of human morality?

The Israel Medical Association Code of Medical Ethics (edited by Professor Avinoam Reches, 2014) states that medical professionals must prioritize decision making for the benefit of their patients, that it is a self-regulatory profession requiring strict professional and ethical standards and conduct. Why? Because public confidence in their physicians is of utmost importance to the profession. Physician ethical obligation #2 is “the physician will work, in the best of his ability, to preserve and improve the physical and mental health of the individual patient and society as a whole”. If a third-year medical student displays support and even exuberance for the death of innocents, he is clearly unable to improve the health of society, certainly not the individual health of Israeli teens trying to get home, and cannot promote public confidence in medicine.

In fact, had these teens been found alive and brought in to a hospital for medical care – I fear that this student would support NOT preserving their lives, and possibly expedite their demise. Maybe it would be termed a situation where they were in deteriorated health condition and did not survive, but in reality would this potential future Technion-graduated physician have prematurely ended their lives? It seems so.

As a nurse and a nurse practitioner, I have treated patients of all socioeconomic conditions, all political spectrums, all religions, all persuasions, all colors, and all creeds. I have treated Arab and Jew alike, Muslim and Christians, atheists and nihilists, prisoners and criminals. I have treated homeless heroin addicts who give birth to multiple crack babies and want to have more children. I have treated former Nazis and many anti-Semites. As a medical professional committed to preserving and protecting life, my ethical and legal obligations supersede personal interests and concerns – always.

Israel may be short of physicians and nurses, but we will never be so short-staffed that we must lower our moral standards, obliterate our ethical responsibilities to our patients, and allow people to enter these professions who do not and cannot meet the accepted national and international standards of ethical conduct. As a nation we should be outraged and demand for this student’s immediate removal from medical school. The Technion, a publically funded academic institution, should move to withdraw this student from the study of medicine for the sake of the profession and the institution’s name. There are many professions which do not hold people’s lives in their hands, but entry into medicine and health care should be forbidden to those who have poor judgment or no basic human morality. Freedom of speech does not trump these inviolable medical ethical considerations. Furthermore, better screening of medical and health care students should be implemented so that the Israeli public is not funding the education of anti-humanistic, morally questionable, and hate-mongering students.

As potential patients, we should not have to fear the moral character of our health care providers. As medical professionals, nurses and physicians must band together and stop people with merciless disregard for human life from entering our sacred professions – which must be dedicated to preserving life and easing suffering. As Israelis, we should not be supporting the education of those who want to kill us and celebrate the death of innocents.

About the Author
Dr. Eliana Aaron has a doctorate in health policy, leadership, management from Yale University. She is a family nurse practitioner, director of EMA Care, and an expert in health policy.