The military reported on Monday that 45 of the 106 detainees on hunger strike at Gitmo are being force tube fed (what the military refers to as “on the enteral feed list”). Experts, human rights advocates, physicians, medical associations and even some U.S. lawmakers have either likened the process — which involves strapping the detainee to a restraining chair and force feeding via a tube that is inserted in the nasal cavity, run down through the esophagus and into the stomach — as torture or said it violates medical ethics and have called on it to end.
Mos Def appears on video going through the process — as outlined in a recently disclosed Gitmo Standard Operating Procedure — in apparent agony. “When the tube went in,” he said, “the first part of it is not that bad but you get this burning, I got this burning and it starts to get really unbearable like something was going into my brain and it reached the back of my throat and I really couldn’t take it.” Watch the video (WARNING — very graphic):
Detainee lawyers say their hunger striking clients are given a choice, either consume some form of nutrient or go through the process illustrated in the video above, twice a day for as long as two hours in each feeding.
Three physicians in a recent New England Journal of Medicine article called on doctors overseeing this process at Gitmo to refuse to participate. “Force-feeding a competent person is not the practice of medicine it is aggravated assault,” they wrote.
Three members of the the Constitution Project’s Task Force on Detainee Treatment agree, writing in a Los Angeles Times oped on Saturday that “[d]octors have a duty to preserve life, but they also have a duty to respect patients’ autonomy and not to subordinate their medical judgment to prison authorities.” The task force recently condemned force feeding at Gitmo, calling it “a form of abuse and must end.”
Even President Obama seems to agree. “Look at the current situation, where we are force-feeding detainees who are — being held on a hunger strike,” he said in May. “Is that who we are? Is that something our founders foresaw? Is that the America we want to leave our children?”