AP: Force-feeding Hunger Strikers At Gitmo Medically Unethical

Here's something you don't read every day: force-feeding a hunger striker violates medical ethics.

Hmmm. So, preventing someone from starving to death is medically unethical? Wouldn't it be more unethical to let someone starve to death, even if it is their wish?

After all, suicide is against the law in this country.

Regardless of the odd dichotomy, the Associated Press reported Tuesday (emphasis added, h/t NBer allanf):

Military doctors violate medical ethics when they approve the force-feeding of hunger strikers at the U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, according to a commentary in a prestigious medical journal.

The doctors should attempt to prevent force-feeding by refusing to participate, the commentary's three authors write in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical Association.

Fascinating. The article continued:

"In medicine, you can't force treatment on a person who doesn't give their voluntary informed consent," said Dr. Sondra Crosby of Boston University, one of the authors. "A military physician needs to be a physician first and a military officer second, in my opinion."

Interesting. Yet, is nutrition considered treatment, or one of life's necessities? Would doctors in a non-military hospital allow a patient in a non-vegetative state remove his or her feeding tube if it became clear that the patient was suicidal?

Regardless, the AP didn't do a very good job of identifying who Dr. Crosby was, as her bio at Boston University's website indicates that she is the "Director of Medical Services at the Boston Center for Refugee Health and Human Rights."

The AP conveniently ignored that affiliation, and chose not to address this Center at all (from the Center's website, emphasis added):

Through an innovative model of out-patient care, we provide comprehensive medical, mental health, and dental care-coordinated with legal and social services-to over 300 individuals from 67 countries each year. Interpreter services are available for over 30 languages to aid in the healing journey of each patient and their families.

The Center is a member of the National Consortium of Torture Treatment Programs and operates as an interdisciplinary collaboration among clinicians and experts from Boston Medical Center (Departments of Psychiatry, Medicine, Family Medicine, Pediatrics, Social Work, and Interpreter Services), Boston University (Schools of Medicine, Public Health, Dentistry, and Law), Global Lawyers and Physicians-a non-governmental organization, and the National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.


Our mission is to provide comprehensive health care for refugees and survivors of torture and related trauma, coordinated with legal aid and social services. We also exist to educate and train agencies and professionals who serve this patient population, to advocate for the promotion of health and human rights in the United States and worldwide, and to conduct clinical, epidemiological, and legal research for the better understanding and promotion of health and quality of life for survivors of torture and related trauma.

It would have been nice if the AP had informed readers that Crosby works for such an advocate, don't you agree?

As an aside, Crosby also doesn't like animal farms.

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