New US military medical guidelines for detainee treatment allow force-feeding

[JURIST] The US Department of Defense [official website] has issued comprehensive guidelines for the treatment of detainees that direct doctors to force-feed detainees who endanger their own lives as a result of a hunger strike. The guidelines [PDF text], aimed primarily at the recent wave of hunger strikes [JURIST report] by detainees at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive], also gives doctors a limited consultation role in interrogations. US Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs Dr. William Winkenwerder [official profile] described the guidelines [transcript], which formalize policies already in place, as "humane" and "based on high medical standards and ethical treatment of people," adding that the guidelines are part of an effort to preserve the lives of detainees and protect people working at detention centers as well.

The new guidelines drew criticism [press release] from Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) [advocacy website], which called the guidelines "an assault on medical ethics, the professional integrity of military health personnel, the Geneva Conventions, and on US military tradition and discipline." PHR fears that the guidelines do not provide adequate protection against health personnel sharing sensitive medical information with interrogators, including psychological and psychiatric information. PHR added that new policies issued last month by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) [official website] and World Medical Association (WMA) [official website] which prohibit mental health practitioners [WMA press release] from directly supporting individual interrogations [APA press release], and that international ethics guidelines and the American Medical Association [official website] expressly allow people to go on a hunger strike if they act under their own will. AP has more.

 

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