Top doctors: Gitmo is "a medical ethics free zone"

Writing in the New England Journal of Medicine, U.S. doctors urge colleagues to refuse to force feed detainees

Published June 13, 2013 1:32PM (EDT)

  (Reuters/Shane T. McCoy)
(Reuters/Shane T. McCoy)

An article in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine, penned by senior U.S. physicians, condemns Guantanamo Bay as a "a medical ethics free zone" and urges other U.S. doctors to refuse to work at the camp, where currently over 40 detainees on hunger strike are being force-fed through nasal tube.

Via the Guardian:

[The article authors] said that medical staff had a moral duty to allow the prisoners to go on hunger strike without coercing them into treatment. They also called on doctors to refuse to take part in force-feeding.

"Military physicians should refuse to participate in any act that unambiguously violates medical ethics," wrote Dr George Annas, Dr Sondra Crosby and Dr Leonard Glantz, in a three-page article outlining an ethical case against force-feeding of the detainees. All three are senior medical professors at Boston University.

The doctors urged others in the American medical profession to speak out on the issue and provide support for any army doctor who might refuse to participate in the procedure.

... In an interview, Dr Annas said the force-feeding went against international standards of medical ethics. He said that a hunger strike was a legitimate form of protest – not an attempt to commit suicide – and that the portrayal of doctors at Guantánamo as ethically intervening to preserve life was wrong. "That is at the core of this. These people are not trying to commit suicide. They are risking death to make a political point," he said.

By Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email

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Force-feeding Gitmo Guantanamo Bay Guantanamo Hunger Strike Medicine New England Journal Of Medicine