According to recent figures from the Human Rights Association (IHD), there are 280,000 prisoners in Turkey’s prisons that have a collective capacity of just 220,000. The figures indicate that 1334 prisoners are currently sick, with 457 of them suffering from severe health problems.
Due to a major increase in incarcerations following the failed July 2016 coup attempt, Turkey’s prisons have become overcrowded, and health issues have become a frequent concern. Between 2017-2019, the IHD determined that 44 prisoners died in jail, 19 of which succumbed to urgent heart issues. It is also believed that these figures are higher than reported.
Another problem is the issue of prisoners being transported to hospitals while being handcuffed. Political prisoners frequently oppose this treatment, and as a result refuse to be taken to hospitals if they are handcuffed. The IHD’s Nuray Çevirmen, speaking to Deutsche Welle, said that this handcuff practice is something condudcted for security reasons but that other solutions can be found and that the practice is insulting to a person’s honor. According to Çevirmen, doctors should request that the handcuffs be removed but no doctors are doing this.
The case of Demirtaş full of lessons for doctors
Referring to the treatment of jailed politican Selahattin Demirtaş, who recently lost consciousness while behind bars and was released from the hospital and sent back from prison without sufficient examinations being performed, prominent doctor and former Istanbul University professor Şebnem Korur Fincancı wrote in a tweet on Tuesday that doctors must not forget that justice is among the ethical principles of the practice of medicine.
Demirtaş, former co-head of the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) lost consciousness after experiencing breathing problems last week, but was only brought to a hospital on Monday and subsequently released following the recommendation of the polyclinic, a decision that has been criticized by advocates of the former politician, who has been jailed on terror charges for three years in a prison in the northwestern province of Edirne, in the opposite end of the country from the southeastern city of Diyarbakır where Demirtas’ family resides.
“Every patient’s needs are unique and particular to their own conditions. By examining these conditions, it is the burden of the doctor ensure the patient’s biological, psychological and social wellbeing,” Fincancı wrote.