South African Medical Association

Media Release:SAMA calls for end to maturity assessments in Iran

23 July 2018

SAMA calls for end to maturity assessments in Iran

The South African Medical Association (SAMA) has joined the World Medical Association (WMA) in condemning state-affiliated doctors in Iran in facilitating the execution of young prisoners in that country.

This follows the execution last month of 19-year-old Abolfazl Chezani Sharahi, who was sentenced to death in 2014. The WMA says his sentence was issued based on an official medical opinion by the Legal Medicine Organization in Iran, stating that he was mentally “mature” at the age of 14 when the crime of which he was convicted took place.

“The involvement of doctors is in direct violation of international law and their duties as physicians, and is both unethical and illegal. Doctors have a clear duty to avoid any involvement in torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment, including the death penalty. This is specified in the WMA’s policies and the International Code of Medical Ethics,” notes Dr Mzukisi Grootboom, chairperson of SAMA.

He says doctors who provide “maturity” assessments used by courts to issue death sentences – as in the case of the doctors affiliated to the Legal Medicine Organization - are facilitating the execution of individuals.

According to Amnesty International, Abolfazl Chezani Sharahi was the fourth individual since the beginning of 2018 to be executed after being convicted of crime committed when under the age of 18. It notes that there are at least 85 other juvenile offenders currently on death row based on medical maturity assessments.

Dr Grootboom says Iran ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which absolutely prohibits the use of the death penalty against people who were below the age of 18 at the time of the crime they are convicted of committing.

“Along with the WMA, we urge Iran’s authorities to amend their Penal Code to comply with international human rights laws by abolishing the use of the death penalty for crimes committed by people below the age of 18 in all circumstances,” says Dr Grootboom.

He adds that SAMA urges the Iranian Medical Council to speak out in support of the fundamental principles of medical ethics, and to investigate and sanction any breach of these principles by association members.

“We further call on the Council to publicly acknowledge a physician’s duty to do no harm and to strongly condemn the medical maturity assessments provided by the Legal Medicine Organization,” Dr Grootboom concludes.


Notes to Editors
About SAMA
The South African Medical Association was formally constituted on 21 May 1998 as a unification of a variety of doctors’ groups that had represented a diversity of interests. SAMA is a non-statutory, professional association for public, and private sector medical practitioners. SAMA is a voluntary membership association, existing to serve the best interests and needs of its members in any and all healthcare related matters.

Head of PR & Communications
Dr Simonia Magardie
082 905 8505

Chairperson: SAMA
Dr Mzukisi Grootboom
072 633 1114

Spokesperson 2
Vice-Chairperson: SAMA
Prof Mark Sonderup
083 626 1909

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