Medical involvement in force-feeding at Guantánamo
The BMA Chair has written to President Obama and US Secretary of Defense Hagel, urging them to suspend immediately medical involvement in force-feeding at the Guantánamo Bay detention facility and to institute an urgent inquiry into how the situation developed.
We have also written to the pharmaceutical companies that are reportedly supplying the US military with the nutritional products used in the force-feeding, asking them to disassociate themselves and their products from the practice.
In April 2013, the US Department of Defense reportedly sent 40 additional military medical personnel, including doctors and nurses, to the Guantánamo Bay Naval Base to carry out the force-feeding of detainees on hunger strike. By the end of June, up to 104 of the remaining 166 individuals held in US military detention at Guantánamo were refusing food.
The protest against conditions at the base, and the fate of those being held there – including those cleared for transfer or release – began in February. In June it was reported that as many as 44 of the hunger strikers were being force-fed by military medical teams.
The force-feeding of a mentally competent adult hunger striker by medical staff is a gross violation of internationally accepted ethical standards, as articulated by the World Medical Association (WMA) declarations of Malta and Tokyo.
The US authorities' response to the hunger strike has sparked outrage among the international medical community. Adding UK doctors' voices to these calls, the 2013 ARM passed a resolution condemning the participation of doctors and nurses in force-feeding, calling on governments worldwide to ensure that all prisoners have access to confidential, independent medical treatment and supporting any clinician who challenges cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.
Read our letters to reported suppliers and a response from Nestlé, August 2013
Read our letter to the US President and Secretary of Defense, June 2013
Read our letter to the Guardian about the Guantánamo case, June 2013
Read a BMJ editorial on force-feeding at Guantánamo Bay, July 2013
See the WMA declarations of Malta and Tokyo