Doctors say Guantanamo force-feeding violates medical ethics
Doctors say Guantanamo force-feeding violates medical ethics

[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.


 Op-ed: Guantanamo and Medical Ethics | Comment: More Guantanamo hunger strikes: the silence is deafening