ResourcesPress Release

Force Feeding Violates Medical Ethics, Points to Need to Close Guantánamo

For Immediate Release

As the hunger strike continues at the Guantánamo Bay detention facility, PHR stressed the need for the Obama administration to immediately stop the unethical force feeding of detainees on hunger strikes.

President Obama recently reiterated his call from 2008 to close the facility, where some of the detainees have been engaged in a hunger strike as a form of protest against the inhumane conditions and indefinite detention. While PHR welcomed the president’s announcement, it emphasized the need to fulfill this long-standing promise, as well as to immediately stop force feeding of some of the hunger strikers and address the conditions that have led to the hunger strike in the first place.

“Force feeding clearly violates medical standards, and constitutes inhumane and degrading treatment,” said Vincent Iacopino, PHR’s senior medical advisor. “The hunger strike and force feeding are the latest examples to illuminate the dire situation and ongoing abuse at Guantánamo Bay. While there is no question this deplorable detention facility must be shut down, force feeding of detainees needs to be stopped immediately. It is crucially important that people’s rights to make decisions about their own health be respected.”

As of early May, 100 of the 166 detainees were said to be on the hunger strike, with 23 of them being force fed. The American Medical Association has spoken out on the issue, recently pointing out that force feeding “violates core ethical values of the medical profession.” (pdf) The World Medical Association has also concluded that force feeding is ethically unacceptable and constitutes inhumane and degrading treatment.

PHR is recommending the following steps with regard to Guantánamo Bay:

  • President Obama should end force feeding immediately and institute policies consistent with the World Medical Association’s Declaration of Malta on Hunger Strikers
  • Allow independent medical personnel to visit detainees and provide medical support to hunger strikers
  • Safely relocate detainees who have been cleared for release
  • Close the detention facility

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.

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Kevin Short

Deputy Director, Media & Communications1.917.679.0110

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