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Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Guantanamo Hunger Strikes And Ethics Of Force-Feeding

A Guantanamo detainee sits alone inside a fenced area during his daily outside period, at Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base, Cuba. (Brennan LinsleyAP)

A Guantanamo detainee sits alone inside a fenced area during his daily outside period, at Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base, Cuba. (Brennan LinsleyAP)

A U.S. military spokesman says there are still 100 Guantanamo Bay prisoners refusing to eat as of Wednesday. Lt. Col. Samuel House says 23 are being force-fed to prevent starvation.

House said the prison camps appeared calm a day earlier as word spread that Obama had said at a news conference that he would try to persuade Congress to end the restrictions that have prevented his administration from emptying the prison that now holds 166 men.

“None of them have had any sort of meaningful due process and most of them have been held for 11 years without seeing their families.”
– Carlos Warner, lawyer

Carlos Warner is a federal public defender who represents 11 of the prisoners at Guantanamo.

“None of my clients have been charged. None of them have pending charges. None of them have had any sort of meaningful due process and most of them have been held for 11 years without seeing their families,” Warner told Here & Now’s Robin Young.

Warner says he believes that more men are starving themselves than the government has acknowledged. He estimates at least 120 men are on hunger strikes, in addition to his clients. He also believes more than two dozen detainees are being force-fed.

“It’s been described to me this way: First of all, the military uses a tube that is too large, and often the men are strapped down, but they don’t find the right passage for the tube. It takes two or three entries. Once it passes the sinuses, the men’s eyes begin to water. As it hits their throat, they have a hard time breathing because the tube is too wide, and they gag. As it hits their stomach, their first reaction is to vomit,” Warner said.

Warner says he does not want to see his clients die, but he calls the force-feeding inhumane and a “clear violation of medical ethics.”

Art Caplan, head of the division of bioethics at New York University’s Langone Medical Center, says a hunger strike is a political statement, not equivalent to a suicide attempt.

“If you put it into that framework then ethically, any person – even a prisoner – can refuse medical intervention, as long as they’re not a disease risk to other people,” Caplan said.

The Associated Press contributed reporting to this article.

Guests:

  • Carlos Warner, federal public defender who represents 11 of the prisoners at Guantanamo. He tweets @Carlos_Warner.
  • Art Caplan, head of the division of bioethics at New York University’s Langone Medical Center. He tweets @ArthurCaplan.

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  • David

    These prisoners are adults.  Should they choose to starve themselves to death, they have a right to do so without interference.   If this is the way they wish to “make a political statement”, by all means let them make it.

  • Ninten Vlad

     The group has been cleared for release because the government found nothing on them. They are being  treated with injustice and indignity, being refused to see their loved ones–some for over a DECADE, and have reason to believe they will live under forced oppression forever. Who wouldn’t rather die? This type of treatment on a human being and governmental modus operandi reflects on each one of us as an American. This is immoral, unethical, and downright  abhorrent. Doesn’t help our international relations, either.

  • Lilacs

    If the force feeding is not meant as sadistic punishment then why at least do the medical personnel not at the very least use PEDIATRIC feeding tubes/ scopes.  So at least the tubes are not so big and painful?  Common sense is a thing of the past. Even regular patients in hospitals in America who are petite but adult have trouble getting gastroenterologists to admit that the colonoscopy, endoscopy, sigmoidoscopy, anoscopes are far to large for the average petite women.  The pain is intense and tearing and trauma can result to delicate tissues.  Doctors won’t even request a pediatric scope to be sent over to their department for their smaller patients.  Why the medical establishment is so belligerent, obstinate, and contrary is beyond understanding.  When a patient makes a  request they can be assured the doctor will do the opposite.  It is all about power and control in this country and sadism is alive and well. Sad.  

  • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

    havent we tortured these guys enough? now force feeding? and when exactly is oboma going to shut it down as he promised? third term?

  • Margaret Gooding

    Try them or release them. Holding them indefinitely is inhumane and not what we should be doing as Americans. The constitution does not differentiate between citizens and non-citizens regarding the right to due process. I know the government is trying to get around this by saying they are not on American soil and that they are “enemy combatants”. How can we expect respect from the rest of the world when we treat people this way?

  • Cgplunk

    The UN and humanitarian organizations will hold President Obama responsible for the inhumane treatment of the Guantanamo prisoners. If he doesn’t take action from his office now, he certainly deserves their scrutiny in the future.

  • road.rep

    These are people who have sworn to kill Americans (me!) anytime they get the opportunity. The ones who have been cleared for release have nowhere to go, as their home countries refuse to take them. They are enemy combatants in custody for the duration of the conflict. They didn’t get to Gitmo by being model citizens! They are terrorists! If they choose to die in custody, why are we trying to stop them?

  • Aaron Allen

    How dumb can it be? At costs of almost $90K per ‘prisoner’ per year we operate what has be-come ‘Abu Ghraib II’. When our Navy was in charge, there was an ‘understanding’ between the
    management and the ‘guests’. Then, the Army took over and cracked-down on the ‘prisoners’,
    making their lives miserable and forcing them to attempt suicide by starvation. The situation
    is both hopeless and ridiculous and we are wasting money that is being stolen from OUR PEO-
    ple! We shud turn the ‘prisoners’ over to the UN to repatriate or ‘resettle’, close Guantanamo,
    and return it to Cuba…We must NEVER bring such persons to OUR country or land it leases
    or occupies again: Kill ‘em ‘over there’–we have no real ‘jurisdiction’ over them…Aaron Allen.

  • Urrede2emme

    Give them a bowl of water and some bread, if they don’t eat it, let them be.    It’s their choice.  This goes for all prisons not just “Getmo”

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