Egyptian Doctors Denounced for Breaching Medical Ethics

By admin

Originally published on Advocate.com April 08 2008 12:00 AM ET

A coalition of
117 human rights groups worldwide is denouncing not
only Egypt for arresting and detaining HIV-positive men
for the "habitual practice of debauchery" but also
many of the detainees' doctors, who participated in
the illegal crackdown. Five men scheduled to face
trial in Cairo on April 9 are part of a group of at least 12
who have been jailed since October 2007 simply because
they are living with HIV or AIDS. According to
international group Human Rights Watch, the crackdown
occurred with the participation of medical personnel.
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch wrote an open
letter to Egypt's health ministry and the Egyptian
Doctors’ Syndicate, reprimanding doctors for
their breaches of doctor-patient confidentiality.

“Doctors
must put patients first, not join a witch-hunt driven by
prejudice,” Joe Amon, director of the HIV/AIDS
program at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement
released Monday. “Now more than 100 human
rights groups are reminding Egyptian doctors of the oath
they took to respect patients’ privacy,
autonomy, and consent. This is one of the oldest
traditions of medical responsibility, as well as an
obligation under human rights law.”

Doctors in Egypt
take an oath based on the Geneva Declaration of the
World Medical Association, which says doctors must not use
the medical knowledge of a patient to "violate human
rights and civil liberties, even under threat."

The arrests began
last year when one man who was stopped on the street by
police during an altercation notified them he was
HIV-positive. Police arrested him and the man with
him, assaulted them, and interrogated them to obtain
the names of other HIV-positive men, according to HRW.
Each man was charged with the "habitual practice of
debauchery," or consensual sex between two men.

Doctors from
the health ministry also subjected the detainees to HIV
tests without their consent, according to the press release.
The prisoners who tested positive for the virus were
held in hospitals and chained to their beds,
being released from the chains only after publication
of their treatment and the resulting public outcry.

A Cairo court
convicted four of the 12 men arrested, sentencing them to a
year in prison on January 18. On February 2 their sentences
were upheld by an appellate court. A month later,
Cairo prosecutors indicted five more men, who face
trial on Wednesday. The charges against the remaining
three men were dropped. (The Advocate)