The June 10, 2000 issue of the British Medical journal reports on an interesting statistic that has occurred in Israel. It seems that three months ago physicians in public hospitals implemented a program of sanctions in response to a labor dispute over a contract proposal by the government. The article stated that the Israel Medical Association began an action in March to protest against the treasury’s proposed imposition of a new four year wage contract for doctors. Since then, the medical doctors have cancelled hundreds of thousands of visits to outpatient clinics and have postponed tens of thousands of elective operations.
To find out whether the industrial action was affecting deaths in the country, the Jerusalem Post interviewed non-profit making Jewish burial societies, which perform funerals for the vast majority of Israelis. Hananya Shahor, the veteran director of Jerusalem’s Kehilat Yerushalayim burial society said, “The number of funerals we have performed has fallen drastically.” Meir Adler, manager of the Shamgar Funeral Parlour, which buries most other residents of Jerusalem, declared with much more certainty: “There definitely is a connection between the doctors sanctions and fewer deaths. We saw the same thing in 1983 when the Israel Medical Association applied sanctions for four and a half months.”
In response Avi Yisraeli, director general of the Hadassah Medical Organization, offered his own explanation, “Mortality is not the only measure of harm to health.” He goes on to say that, “Elective surgery can bring about a great improvement in a patients condition, but it can also mean disability and death in the weakest patients.”