Laniado, also known as the Sanz Medical Center, is a public hospital owned by an ultra-Orthodox association. It is located at a haredi neighborhood in Netanya and is run according to Jewish Law. Nevertheless, it provides medical treatment to the entire public, including on Shabbat and during Jewish holidays.
But when it comes to fertility treatments, the hospital does not conform to the principle of equality and chooses to treat patients only according to the Halacha. As a result, unmarried people or people who are not halachically married are denied treatment.
M., a 43-year-old woman from Netanya who has been living with her partner for two years now, was specifically told that she would not be able to undergo fertility treatments at Laniado due to the fact that she is not married.
"A married Christian couple can be treated there, but I can't, and I have no intention of getting married just because of the hospital," she says. "In a civilized country like outs, such discrimination is unthinkable."
A complaint filed with the Health Ministry by Knesset Member Tamar Zandberg of the Meretz party led to an inquiry against the hospital.
The hospital wrote in its response to the ministry: "Laniado has been operating for more than 30 years according to the Jewish Halacha, which means that every life-saving, pain-relieving and healing treatment is offered to every patient regardless of their religion, nationality and race, day and night, including on Shabbat and Jewish holidays, according to the halachic principle that the preservation of human life overrides any other consideration.
"In accordance with this principle, we offer fertility treatments according to Jewish Law to married couples only."
'A serious case of discrimination'
Following the response, the Health Ministry decided not to intervene in the matter, explaining that Laniado was not a governmental hospital and that the patients could turn to other hospitals.
The ministry decided, however, that Laniado would have to make its policy public in order to prevent patients from turning to the hospital in the first place.
"It's unthinkable that an Israeli hospital decides not to treat people who do not live their life according to the Halacha," MK Zandberg said in response to the decision. "Providing medical care cannot depend on the way people choose to live, and Laniado's conduct is a serious case of discrimination and a forbidden violation of the right to privacy.
"The Health Ministry's ridiculous response provides legitimacy and actual approval of such discrimination in other institutions, discrimination which is directed at seculars, single women, same-sex couples and anyone who is not married according to the Halacha. Why isn't the health Ministry protecting Israel's residents?" Zandberg asked.
The Laniado Hospital said in response: "The IVF unit treats married couples and does not discriminate between Jews and non-Jews."
The Health Ministry offered the following response: "Laniado is a private hospital owned and run by a haredi association. Therefore, it would be difficult to intervene in the hospital's policy, particularly in light of the nature of the treatments and the fact that there are several alternatives for receiving the treatments in other hospitals located at a reasonable distance.
"Nonetheless, once the hospital has adopted such a policy, it must ensure that the information about this policy is available to all patients, so that women and their partners will be able to choose whether to turn to Laniado for these treatments or to go to any other hospital in advance."