Bioethics Blogs

Triage and the Israel-Palestine Conflict: A Case of Medical Tourism

by Sarah Kiskadden-Bechtel

Medical tourism widens the sphere of available medical care beyond a single country’s borders. Patients who voluntarily leave their home country to seek treatment in other countries typically do so out of perceived medical necessity; these procedureswhich are often poorly covered by insurancerange from mandatory heart surgery, to kidney or other organ transplants. In conflict-laden countries like Israel, organ donation rates “are among the lowest in the developed world, about one-third the rate in Western Europe,”[1] giving rise to advertisements for transplants due to inherent shortage.[2] Although rabbis offer different opinions about whether organ transplantation should be permissible under Jewish law, Israeli citizens have been known to venture as far as South Africa to undergo illegal kidney transplants.[3] Clearly, there is palpable incentive for Israeli citizens to receive organ transplants; questions remain, however, regarding whether and how these organs are being obtained, and what should be done as a result.

There is some evidence that Israeli soldiers have harvested organs from captured Palestinians. In November of 2015, the Palestinian Representative to the UN Dr. Riyad Mansour wrote an open letter to the UN Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon claiming that, under Israeli occupation in East Jerusalem, Palestinians killed and seized by Israeli soldiers were being returned with “missing corneas and other organs.”[4] As a counterpoint, Israel’s UN Ambassador Danny Danon dismissed these claims ascribing them to “anti-Semitic motives.”[5] If there is any truth to Mansour’s claims, there is little clarity about which organs were missing, or whether the individuals in question were peaceful citizens or more militant aggressors.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.