[Pnews] Health Professionals Who Participate in Force-feeding Prisoners on Hunger Strike at Guantanamo Bay Should Lose Professional Licenses

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Mon Sep 30 12:37:38 EDT 2013


  Health Professionals Who Participate in Force-feeding Prisoners on
  Hunger Strike at Guantanamo Bay Should Lose Professional Licenses, New
  Study Reveals


    New research in Prehospital and Disaster Medicine, WADEM's
    peer-reviewed journal, concludes that force-feeding prisoners
    violates medical ethics and amounts to torture.

(PRWEB) September 30, 2013
http://www.prweb.com/releases/2013/9/prweb11175870.htm

Physicians and other licensed health professionals are force-feeding 
hunger strikers held prisoner at the US Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay 
(GTMO), Cuba. These health professionals are violating the medical 
ethics they swore to uphold and are complicit in torture, according to 
the authors of an article published in Prehospital and Disaster 
Medicine. Jennifer Leaning, MD, SMH, Director of the FXB Center for 
Health and Human Rights at Harvard University, and her Harvard 
colleagues, Sarah Dougherty, JD, MPH, Gregg Greenough, MD, MPH, and 
Frederick Burkle, MD, MPH, DTM urge the licenses of health professionals 
who participate in force-feeding be revoked. Leaning and her co-authors 
also call for the medical profession to demand changes in military 
medical management protocols and stronger protections for military 
health professionals who protest unethical orders.

Historically, the treatment of hunger strikers has been difficult for 
health professionals, particularly those employed in institutional 
settings, because the practice raises profound clinical, ethical, moral, 
humanitarian and legal questions. A companion paper, providing 
historical perspective from the emergency management of refugee camp 
asylum seekers, is also published in Prehospital and Disaster Medicine.

Leaning and her co-authors note that hunger strikes are political acts, 
not medical conditions. Hunger strikers refuse food on a voluntary, 
informed basis and without suicidal intent. At GTMO and elsewhere, 
force-feeding involves the use of force and physical restraints to 
immobilize hunger strikers without their consent and against their 
express wishes-actions which constitute battery and violate basic human 
dignity. The US Department of Defense (DoD) force-feeding policy and 
protocols are a "gross violation" of US and international ethical 
standards prohibiting force-feeding of hunger strikers.

The DoD has also ratified the practice through a longstanding policy of 
vetting health professionals assigned to GTMO. Military health care 
providers have the same medical ethics obligations as civilian 
providers, but as military personnel are also required to obey lawful 
orders. Because force-feeding has been found lawful under US civilian 
and military law, military health professionals at GTMO ordered to 
force-feed hunger strikers must choose between upholding medical ethics 
and obeying the law.

"Given the failure of civilian and military law to end force-feeding, 
the medical profession must exert policy and regulatory pressure to 
bring DoD policy and operations into compliance with established ethical 
standards," says Jennifer Leaning. "We join those medical and ethical 
authorities who have called for investigations into the force-feeding at 
GTMO and for sanctions where appropriate. This paper is the first in the 
medical literature to review the history of exhausting attempts at 
remedy through US law and presents the tight argument for why only the 
US medical profession can adequately uphold professional standards of 
medical ethics through its licensing power. When the law has become 
deferential to the claims of civilian and military institutions, our 
only ethical bastion as physicians and health care providers is the 
national and international guild we have built and belong to. The 
professional battle to uphold principles of medical ethics and human 
rights has often in the past proved grossly feeble against prevailing 
institutional pressures. We turn away from this instance at our 
collective peril."

"Political events and actions are increasingly forcing physicians and 
other health care professionals to choose between medical ethics and US 
law," says Samuel J. Stratton, MD, MPH, Editor-in-Chief of Prehospital 
and Disaster Medicine. "In both military and civilian contexts, the 
issues surrounding force-feeding are complex and contentious, and should 
be subject to rigorous examination and debate. Prehospital and Disaster 
Medicine intends to publish additional papers adding to the debate on 
how health professionals should navigate this important ethical dilemma."

Hunger Strikers: Ethical and Legal Dimensions of Medical Complicity in 
Torture at Guantanamo Bay
Sarah M. Dougherty, Jennifer Leaning, P. Gregg Greenough, Frederick M. 
Burkle, Jr.
doi: 10.1017/S1049023X13008868

Hunger Strikers: Historical Perspectives from the Emergency Management 
of Refugee Camp Asylum Seekers
Frederick M. Burkle, Jr., Jimmy T.S. Chan, Richard D.S. Yeung
doi: 10.1017/S1049023X1300887X

These papers are freely available, for one month, via the following 
link: http://journals.cambridge.org/pdm/hungerstrikers 
<http://journals.cambridge.org/pdm/hungerstrikers>

About Prehospital and Disaster Medicine:

Prehospital and Disaster Medicine is an official publication of the 
World Association for Disaster and Emergency Medicine (WADEM). The 
peer-reviewed journal focuses on international prehospital, emergency, 
and disaster health topics.

For more information visit: htp://journals.cambridge.org/pdm


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