Doctors attack 'unethical' medical practices at Guantanamo Bay

[JURIST] Doctors from 16 countries have chided the US military for its medical care of detainees at the US detention center in Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive], Cuba in a letter [text, registration required] Friday to the UK medical journal The Lancet [journal website]. Referring to the US policy of force-feeding detainees [JURIST report] on hunger strike, the more than 260 signatories to the letter attacked those doctors participating in the force-feeding policy, saying it is "fundamental" for doctors to recognize a patient's "right to refuse treatment." Officials force-fed up to 128 detainees [JURIST report] during an extended hunger strike beginning in 2005. The doctors also suggested that those doctors involved in the force-feeding of detainees should be disciplined by their respective professional medical associations for breaching ethical guidelines, and noted that no doctor or other health care worker has been charged with an offense relating to the mistreatment of detainees.

Dr. David Nicholl, who has already lodged formal complaints with the American Medical Association [organization website] and medical boards in California and Georgia, noted in the letter that no effective response was taken by any of the three medical associations. Nicholl added that independent doctors need to care for detainees at Guantanamo to ensure fair and ethical treatment of the prisoners. Last month, three authors published a similar letter JURIST report] in the Journal of the American Medical Association [journal website], stating that military doctors should not force treatment on detainees who have refused informed consent, while last year a group of more than 250 doctors from seven countries signed an open letter [JURIST report], urging the US government to ensure that Guantanamo detainees are examined by independent physicians and that certain aggressive force-feeding methods [JURIST report] be discontinued. The Independent has more.

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