Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Health Care Professionals Urge Obama to End Forced-Feeding of Guantanamo Hunger Strikers

The following is a press release from Psychologists for Social Responsibility (PsySR), who gathered hundreds of signature and the support of other human rights associations to appeal to the President to stop the forced-feeding of hunger strikers at Guantanamo. The forced-feeding policy by the Department of Defense is blatantly against the policy of health organizations around the world, including the American Medical Association, the World Medical Association (see their Declaration of Tokyo), and the British Medical Association.

DoD is on a propaganda campaign to promote their policy (see here and here). But as this UK Guardian article notes, "Force-feeding policies have never succeeded."
Force-feeding is not a new concern. It fell rapidly out of fashion in 1917 after Irish republican Thomas Ashe unexpectedly died after being fed, and again in the 1970s following IRA hunger striker Michael Gaughan's controversial death. Then, as now, medical professionals and human rights activists raised concern about the dubious use of the stomach tube to suppress hunger strikers. The World Medical Organisation's 1975 condemnation of force-feeding as torturous and degrading seemed to signal an end to the practice. Indeed, one of the key reasons why Thatcher was left with few options but to allow IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands and his fellow prisoners to starve – in the face of politically damaging controversy – was because she knew that force-feeding was no longer ethically viable.
What follows is PsySR's press release:
On August 12th, over 400 health care professionals and human rights leaders sent an urgent appeal to President Obama to order Guantánamo detention camp officials to stop force-feeding hunger strikers, immediately release the detainees approved for release, and make closing Guantánamo his first priority. Now in its seventh month, the hunger strike included 106 detainees at its peak, with as many as 46 of them force-fed.

The letter states that force-feeding mentally competent adults is a violation of medical and nursing ethics, and emphasizes that the method of force feeding in Guantánamo is “exceptionally brutal.” In describing the procedure in which the detainee is forcefully extracted from the cell by several soldiers and strapped into a restraint chair for up to two hours, the letter also notes that “Men weakened by significant weight loss are particularly at risk for serious injury during this regimen.”

Sponsored by Psychologists for Social Responsibility and signed by ten additional organizations, including the Center for Constitutional Rights and Physicians for Human Rights, the letter focuses on the ethical and professional dilemmas of Guantánamo health personnel who force-feed the detainees:

“Health care professionals, including those in the military, must maintain their licenses in good standing, and to do so they must follow standards of good ethical practice. This is not what is happening during the hunger strike.”

Because information is classified at Guantánamo, doctors, nurses and psychologists cannot honor their ethical obligations to confer with independent experts in such dilemmas, and are “constrained from securing the support of their professional colleagues if they experience reprisals for registering a complaint or refusing to participate further.”

The signers urge President Obama to “act immediately before more prisoners die” and argue that as Commander-in-Chief he has the power to immediately stop the force-feeding, release the detainees approved for release, and make closing Guantánamo his top priority.

The full text of the letter with the list of all signers is available online at www.psysr.org/GTMO-Letter.

1 comment:

Carol Anne Grayson said...

Glad you have spoken out... here is my own blog as a former health care profession on the right NOT to be force-fed at Gitmo which = torture... from May... A number of us have also participated in ongoing solidarity hunger strike... stand fast for justice... http://activist1.wordpress.com/2013/05/02/guantanamo-the-right-not-to-be-force-fed/

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