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Revista médica de Chile

Print version ISSN 0034-9887


SALAS, Sofía p. et al. Ethical aspects of the doctors’ behavior towards people on hunger strike: position paper from the Ethics Department of the Chilean Medical Association. Rev. méd. Chile [online]. 2018, vol.146, n.9, pp.1059-1063. ISSN 0034-9887.

Every so often, in Chile there is a discussion about the role of physicians in the care of people on hunger strike (HS). In this document, we review the ethical aspects of health care for persons in HS, aiming to provide guidelines to medical doctors who are required to attend them. First, we make an important distinction between HS and suicide, since the former is used as a protest and denunciation tool, while suicide seeks deliberately to end a life. Then we describe the three roles that the health professional can fulfill: as a treating doctor, as an expert or as an official of a prison. The respect for the autonomy and dignity of the person in HS must prevail whatever the role of the physician. Therefore, we maintain that under no circumstances, people who have autonomously decided to be in HS should be fed by force. Due to the complexity of the issue, we make special considerations about the management of minors and the non-competent persons in HS. In conclusion, we adhere to the principles that inspire the Declaration of Malta, which indicate that it would be preferable to “allow a person on hunger strike to die in dignity, rather than subjecting them to repeated interventions against their will”.

Keywords : Ethics; Enteral Nutrition; Hunger; Strikes, Employee.

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