April 20, 2024

Doctors support detainees’ protest over force-feeding at Guantanamo

Doctors ask President to give detainees independent doctors

Scores of doctors have signed an open letter in The Lancet to President Obama asking him to heed a letter written by 13 hunger-striking Guantanamo detainees to their doctors. Of the 166 detainees, 104 are reported to be on a hunger strike and 44 are being force-fed.

The detainees, who have been in the US prison for 12 years without being charged, want access to independent medical advice by a doctor selected by their lawyers. Their letter was carefully drafted to accuse the military doctors of a number of serious violations of medical ethics.

They complain that the doctors do not have their best interests at heart; that the detainees are not being treated as human beings; that the force-feeding is tantamount to torture; that the regimen amounts to a treatment experiment “on an unprecedented scale”; that force-feeding violates patient autonomy to refuse treatment; and that collaboration constitutes a clear violation of codes of medical ethics.

In The Lancet’s letter, the 153 doctors ask President Obama to allow independent medical assessments because trust, which is essential for effective medical care, has broken down.

The Guardian, which is campaigning on treatment of the detainees, sought a response from prison authorities. A spokesman said that none of the doctors, nurses or corpsman had voiced the slightest objection. “They signed up to carry out lawful orders,” he said. “This is a lawful order.”

Michael Cook
Creative commons
Guantanamo Bay
informed consent