Medical Chamber

As the only institution involved in the forced administration of emetics, the Bremen Medical Chamber to this day refuses to accept any joint responsibility for the human rights violations that accompanied it. Committed physicians and the local group of the IPPNW Physicians in Social Responsibility have tried in vain over the years to obtain an official reappraisal of the events.

In October 1995, the assembly of delegates of the Bremen Medical Chamber spoke out unequivocally against the forced administration of emetics and called on the police physician, Dr. Männche, to change the procedure. He then resigned; in the same year, the head of forensic medicine, Dr. Birkholz, took over this task, for which he wanted to use doctors from his Institute for the Preservation of Evidence. Dr. Birkholz was also involved in the fact that the Assembly of Delegates of the Bremen Medical Association in August 2006 considered the administration of emetics to be “compatible with the professional ethics of physicians”. This was supported by the president of the medical Chamber, Dr. Auerswald. This spoke now of it, the rejecting resolution of 1995 had been „contentwise not thought out“. Probably also to protect Mr. Birkholz from consequences under professional law, Dr. Auerswald issued a letter in the fall of 1996. In this letter, she confirmed her rejection of the compulsory administration of emetics, while at the same time assuring physicians who were required to serve as evidence collectors that they would not have to expect any consequences from the Medical Chamber. On the one hand, on-call physicians on emergency duty or at clinics could thus refuse to perform the service with reference to the Chamber, while on the other hand, Dr. Birkholz was given the opportunity to have his physicians perform the emetic administration unchallenged by the Medical Chamber.

Dr. Birkholz understood the letter as a carte blanche by the medical Chamber. Bremen politicians as well as the press also understood the attitude of the medical Chamber to mean that it agreed to the procedure. Until 2005, the Institute for the Preservation of Evidence carried out the emetic procedures without criticism or hesitation. The doctor who performed the fatal emetic administration to Mr. Condé was also a long-time employee of the Institute for the Preservation of Evidence.

Today, the medical board says it could not have banned the evidence-gathering procedure with ipecacuanha. It could only formulate guidelines that had to be followed by the doctors involved. In doing so, it conceals the fact that it was these guidelines, in their contradictory nature, that made the mass implementation of forced vomiting possible in the first place. If other official bodies had followed the warnings of the Medical Association, the practice of forced vomiting would not have taken place.

That this was a purely protective claim became clear at the latest with the decision of the Ethics Committee in 1998, in which forced vomiting was classified as compatible with medical ethics and even dubbed a ‘social task’.

After the death of John Achidi in Hamburg in 2001, the board of the medical chamber refused to revisit the issue. The resolution from the summer of 1996 was still valid.

Other medical associations, such as those in Hesse and Hamburg, were unambiguously opposed to the use of emetics. However, in 2002, the German Medical Congress also passed contradictory resolutions favoring the continuation of the administration of emetics. While the Ärztetag passed a motion that “the administration of emetics without the consent of the person concerned is not medically justifiable,” the same Ärztetag approved medical involvement in another motion: “if the administration of emetics is essential, it may be justifiable under qualified and medical supervision.”

It was not until 2006, after a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights declaring the forced administration of emetics to be inhumane and degrading, that there was a change in the public positions of the German Medical Congress regarding the administraion of emetics.

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