As medical doctors, we note with dismay the recognition by your newspaper of Dr. Mads Gilbert as “person of the year” for 2014. The description of Dr. Gilbert’s activities is dangerously distorted, making the award highly problematic.
In particular we are concerned about his exploitation of medical frameworks for promoting a personal political agenda. As doctors, we are profoundly aware of the fundamental principle of medicine to “first do no harm”, but Dr. Gilbert violates this obligation on many occasions.
In July 2014, Dr. Gilbert co-authored a highly disturbing “Open Letter for the People in Gaza” in The Lancet medical journal. Published during a very difficult war for both sides, this “letter” sought to legitimize aggression by the Hamas terror group, called for boycotts against Israel, and presented a highly distorted version of events, including erasing 4560 rockets and mortars launched against Israelis – each a war crime. The language of this letter can be seen as constituting incitement and support for violence, and was denounced by numerous physicians who opposed this exploitation of the medical profession by Dr. Gilbert and his colleagues.
Furthermore, two of Gilbert’s co-authors (Paola Manduca and Swee Ang Chai) were revealed to be promoting a viciously anti-Semitic video by American neo-Nazi David Duke. The Lancet’s editor, Richard Horton, belatedly declared that he was “horrified to discover that two co-authors of the letter had forwarded a vile and offensive video. The clearly anti-Semitic worldview expressed in that video is abhorrent and deserves universal condemnation.” Yet, Gilbert has remained silent. For a man intensely vocal in support of his opinions on politics and morality, this silence in the face of ugly hate and racism among his colleagues speaks volumes.
Gilbert’s morality is further seen in his activities in Gaza during the war, when he acted, in effect, as a visible spokesperson for Hamas. In his own words, Dr. Gilbert makes it very clear that he is primarily a radical political activist, rather than a medical one. In 2009, he told the Haaretz newspaper that “We are not neutral. We chose medical work in Gaza, not Sderot”.
He used the premises of the al Shifa hospital for numerous media interviews while terror rockets were launched at Israeli civilians from nearby. According to many sources, this facility was also the headquarters of the Hamas leadership directing attacks against Israeli civilians, in blatant violation of international law. Yet, in all his political pronouncements, Gilbert has never referred to these highly visible illegal and immoral activities taking place in the same hospital.
These radical views supporting terrorism come as no surprise, bearing in mind Gilbert’s declarations justifying the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C. that murdered over 3,000 people. Justification of such inhuman acts of violence, clearly war crimes as intentional attacks on civilians, in contrast to accidental damage from attacks on military targets, is entirely inconsistent with the moral obligations of a doctor.
Like any other citizen, Dr. Gilbert is free to voice his opinions, however extreme and disturbing they may be. But, in these and other examples, when he exploits the medical profession to justify terrible violence, this becomes a serious moral problem. And since funding for these campaigns is provided by Norwegian taxpayers, through NORWAC – the Norwegian Aid Committee — they are indirectly contributing to the destructive exploitation of medical and humanitarian frameworks.
We are also aware of publicly available reports regarding manipulation of the selection process for the award, though we cannot confirm this.
With all this information made available here to your readers, reconsideration of the award would send a powerful moral message.
Signatories (email addresses can be provided for verification):
John R. Cohn, M.D.
Professor of Medicine and Pediatrics
Sidney Kimmel School of Medicine of Thomas Jefferson University
Philadelphia, PA, USA
Emeritus Professor of Immunopathology,
University College London, UK
Professor Paul Zimmet, AO, MD PhD, FRACP, FRCP, FTSE
Sir Mark Pepys MD PhD FRCP FRCPath FRS FMedSci
Director, Wolfson Drug Discovery Unit
University College London
Honorary Consultant Physician, Royal Free Hospital
Emeritus Professor and Head of Medicine, Royal Free Campus, UCL
Honorary Fellow, Trinity College, Cambridge, UK
Rhona H. Fink MAS MD
La Jolla, CA, USA
Stuart M. Sprague, DO, FACP, FASN, FNKF
Clinical Professor of Medicine
University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine
and Chairperson, Division of Nephrology and Hypertension
NorthShore University HealthSystem
Evanston, IL, USA
Philip Greenland, MD
Harry W. Dingman Professor
Departments of Preventive Medicine and Medicine
Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University
Chicago, IL USA
Emeritus Professor of Paediatric Epidemiology
University of Glasgow, UK
Dr Simon Cohen FRCP
Consultant Physician, University College Hospital, London, UK