|"Refusing to force-feed us was a historical act and a strong statement. |
We were all amazed."
I would like to take a moment to thank an unknmown US Navy nurse for risking much and taking a stand for humanity. I am a week late, but better late then never.
The nurse has refused to participate in the force feeding of hunger striking inmates at the gulag known as Guantanamo.
Attorney Cori Crider wrote in the Guardian last Friday that she
...was on the phone with my client, Abu Wa’el Dhiab – a detainee of the US government at Guantánamo Bay who has been cleared of any involvement in terrorism – discussing our litigation and whether he had reason to believe he might one day be released. He has been on a hunger strike for over a year and is fighting in court to stop the government from abusively force-feeding him, so he was listless, as is typical. But then he perked up. "I have great news", he said. "Someone at Guantánamo has made a historic stand."
One Navy nurse at Guantánamo had refused to force-feed detainees anymore and declared the practice unethical: I have come to the decision that I refuse to participate in this criminal act, Dhiab told me the nurse said.
The nurse, Dhiab tells me, is the first staffer at Guantánamo to choose medical ethics over military logic. Like all staff assigned to force-feed detainees, this Navy nurse was initially a volunteer. But when he arrived on base this spring, he told Dhiab, he encountered something different from what he expected: The story we were told was completely the opposite of what I saw.
We don't yet know what will happen to this nurse, who is described by Dhiab as an approximately 40 year-old Latino man.
It is the first time a nurse or doctor is known to have refused to tube-feed a prisoner, said Col Greg Julian, a spokesman for southern command, which oversees Guantánamo. He said in a phone interview with the Guardian that the nurse was a lieutenant and had been assigned other duties at Guantánamo. "It's being handled administratively," he said.
The World Medical Association insists that, "Forcible feeding is never ethically acceptable. Even if intended to benefit, feeding accompanied by threats, coercion, force or use of physical restraints is a form of inhuman and degrading treatment." (WMA Declaration of Malta on Hunger Strikers, 2006).
As described in letters from detainee Emad Hassan, the hunger striker is strapped into a restraining chair, often tightly around the abdomen. A tube larger than one used for standard nasogastric tube-feeding is forced through delicate nasal passages, down the throat, and into the victim's stomach. Nutritional supplement, at times containing medication or water, is injected rapidly in large quantities into the stomach, sometimes causing nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. The tube is then removed -- and is sometimes yanked quickly from the nose, causing trauma in the nasal passages.
The nurse was not the only medical staff against the force-feeding. Several other medial officers had told prisoners they did not like the operation.
"But this one soldier stood up and refused to do it. This takes real courage," Dhiab said,. "Refusing to force-feed us was a historical act and a strong statement. We were all amazed."
Dhiab's lawyers are challenging his forced-feeding in federal court. In a related lawsuit, Judge Gladys Kessler granted the disclosure of videotapes of forced-feeding sessions to attorneys. One attorney described the footage as "so 'grim' that I had trouble sleeping." Media groups are asking a judge to release the videos to the public, which absolutely should happen. Regardless of the ruling on the tapes, President Obama should view them and ask himself if forced-feeding is something he or the United States can condone.
The nurse refusing to obey the order to force-feed prisoners displayed great courage and integrity. Nonetheless, it is astounding that it has taken until now for a medical professional to refuse to engage in forced-feeding.
The following is from Physicians for Human Rights.