[JURIST] Military doctors participating in the force-feeding of hunger-striking detainees at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] are violating medical ethics, according to commentary [text] published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) [journal website]. The three authors - Sondra S. Crosby, MD, Caroline M. Apovian, MD, Michael A. Grodin, MD - wrote that military doctors should not force treatment on detainees who have refused to voluntarily provide an informed consent, and said they were "disturbed" after conducting a review of detainee medical records and finding no evidence that the detainees had received psychiatric evaluations or been informed about the health consequences of hunger-striking or tube force-feeding. The World Medical Association (WMA) [official website] issued a revised declaration [text] last year saying:
Forcible feeding is never ethically acceptable. Even if intended to benefit, feeding accompanied by threats, coercion, force or use of physical restraints is a form of inhuman and degrading treatment. Equally unacceptable is the forced feeding of some detainees in order to intimidate or coerce other hunger strikers to stop fasting.The American Medical Association [organization website] has also endorsed the WMA's position and has urged the Department of Defense (DOD) to stop the practice of force-feeding detainees [press release] who have formed an "unimpaired and rational judgment" to refuse nourishment. Last year a group of more than 250 doctors from seven countries signed an open letter [PDF text; JURIST report], urging the US government to ensure that Guantanamo detainees are examined by independent physicians and that certain aggressive force-feeding methods [JURIST report] be discontinued.
The DOD adopted a policy of force-feeding after up to 128 detainees [JURIST reports] went on hunger strike in 2005. Guantanamo Bay spokesperson Navy Commander Rick Haupt says that 20 of 23 fasting detainees are currently being force-fed and that the military does not punish doctors who refuse to participate in the procedures. AP has more.