Medical Associations Push to Stop Force-Feeding of Hunger Strikers at Guantanamo

The entrancer to Camp Justice at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base is seen on October 24, 2013, in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The tents at Camp Justice house media, lawyers, human rights observers, and military personnel and they are near the Guantanamo military commissions, the military tribunals created by the Military Commissions Act of 2006 for prosecuting detainees.
National Journal
Clara Ritger
Add to Briefcase
See more stories about...
Clara Ritger
Dec. 2, 2013, 1:46 p.m.

Ex­ec­ut­ives from lead­ing U.S. med­ic­al as­so­ci­ations craf­ted more than a dozen re­com­mend­a­tions Monday re­gard­ing doc­tors’ treat­ment of de­tain­ees at Guantanamo Bay.

Con­fer­ees fo­cused on the need for the U.S. to ad­opt the De­clar­a­tion of Malta, a 1991 ac­cord that pro­tects hun­ger strikers from force-feed­ing and calls on doc­tors to re­spect the autonomy of the pa­tient.

“Force-feed­ing is equi­val­ent to tor­ture,” said Vir­gin­ia Hood, a med­ic­al pro­fess­or at the Uni­versity of Ver­mont. “Even if it is not con­sidered so in the United States, it should be.”

Pentagon spokes­man Lt. Col. Todd Breas­seale de­fen­ded the De­part­ment of De­fense prac­tice of feed­ing hun­ger strikers. He said the DoD be­lieves “the pre­ser­va­tion of life” su­per­sedes a pa­tient’s right to de­cline treat­ment.

“Every time that chal­lenge has been brought up, the courts have ruled in fa­vor of the prac­ti­tion­ers who have fed people who are try­ing to starve them­selves to death,” Breas­seale said.

Though the De­clar­a­tion of Malta would have to be taken up by Con­gress, the DoD could make some of the struc­tur­al changes the as­so­ci­ation ex­ec­ut­ives called for at the con­fer­ence. The as­so­ci­ations want more trans­par­ency and ac­count­ab­il­ity of med­ic­al prac­tice in Guantanamo, but they also be­lieve the re­la­tion­ship between the mil­it­ary com­mand­er and the mil­it­ary phys­i­cian should not re­quire the doc­tor to put mil­it­ary goals ahead of pa­tient needs.

“The com­mand­er should no more be able to tell a doc­tor how to prac­tice medi­cine than he can tell a JAG [Judge Ad­voc­ate Gen­er­al] of­ficer how to prac­tice law,” said George An­nas, an eth­ics and health law pro­fess­or at Bo­ston Uni­versity in­volved in or­gan­iz­ing the con­fer­ence.

The as­so­ci­ations con­sidered such ideas as form­ing a med­ic­al eth­ics com­mit­tee to re­view phys­i­cians’ prac­tices in the mil­it­ary and set­ting up a hot­line for phys­i­cians to call if they are un­com­fort­able with or­ders and worry about risk­ing their prac­ti­cing li­cense.

“We have to ask the ques­tion of why did [the phys­i­cians] not protest?” said Vivi­enne Nath­an­son, dir­ect­or of pro­fes­sion­al activ­it­ies in the Brit­ish Med­ic­al As­so­ci­ation. “We have to make sure that they un­der­stand it is their role and duty to protest.”

Ac­cess to in­form­a­tion about mil­it­ary prac­tice in Guantanamo hinders the as­so­ci­ations’ case for re­form and their ef­forts to in­sti­tute re­view boards for the phys­i­cians in the field. But they plan to move for­ward in im­ple­ment­ing their re­com­mend­a­tions, put­ting pres­sure on Con­gress and the Pentagon to shift mil­it­ary policy to­ward what the as­so­ci­ations called an in­ter­na­tion­al con­sensus about the defin­i­tion of med­ic­al eth­ics.

“All it takes for the con­tinu­ation of evil is for us to do noth­ing,” said Steph­en Xena­kis, re­tired bri­gadier gen­er­al in the U.S. Army.

What We're Following See More »
ASSAILS FORMER PRESIDENT, STAFF
Trump: Obama Likely Behind Leaks
2 hours ago
THE LATEST
PARTY UNITY
Perez to Be Ellison’s Guest at Trump’s Speech
3 hours ago
THE LATEST

Only three days removed from their race for the Democratic National Committee chairmanship, Rep. Keith Ellison and former Labor Secretary Tom Perez are burying the hatchet at President Trump's address to Congress. Late Monday afternoon, Ellison announced that Perez, who defeated him for the DNC job, will be his guest at the speech. "I look forward to joining Keith in the days and months ahead to show the American people that we stand with them against Donald Trump and his billionaire boys club that couldn't care less about the plight of working people," said Perez.

WOULD HAVE BROUGHT MORE WATERWAYS UNDER FEDERAL CONTROL
Trump to Sign Order Undoing Obama Water Rule
3 hours ago
THE DETAILS
RSC OPPOSITION
House Conservatives Balk on Obamacare Replacement
9 hours ago
THE LATEST

"The chairman of the influential Republican Study Committee said Monday he would vote against a draft ObamaCare replacement bill that leaked last week. Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC), head of the 172-member committee, said Monday his opposition stems from the draft bill's use of refundable tax credits." He said the current plan simply "kicks the can down the road" rather than attempt any real reform.

Source:
ENLISTS THEIR HELP IN REPEAL/REPLACE
Trump Meets with Health Execs
9 hours ago
THE LATEST
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login