14 August 2007

Doctors Demand U.S. To Allow Gitmo Detainees To Starve

I'm not kidding, and it's not the first time that this issue has come up. In March of 2006, about 260 doctors had a letter published in the Lancet which called for the U.S. to stop force-feeding hunger striking detainees.

A group of 263 doctors from seven countries called on the United States to end the force-feeding and use of restraint chairs for detainees fed through nasal tubes into their stomachs at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. [...]

The Pentagon said there were six detainees currently on a hunger strike, including three being tube-fed. It said the number of hunger strikers peaked at about 130 in September and was as high as 84 in late December, but fell to about a half dozen in January. [...]

The Lancet letter's authors called it a challenge to the American Medical Association.

AMA Chairman Dr. Duane Cady said his group, the largest professional organization of physicians in the United States, has told the military of its opposition to force-feeding hunger strikers, but noted "we are not a regulatory or licensing agency."
Now we have three doctors saying, once again, that it is unethical for military doctors to force-feed hunger striking detainees. This time the call for end to the force feeding is in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Military doctors violate medical ethics when they approve the force-feeding of hunger strikers at the US prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, according to a commentary in a prestigious medical journal.

The doctors should attempt to prevent force-feeding by refusing to participate, the commentary's three authors write in today's Journal of the American Medical Association.

"In medicine, you can't force treatment on a person who doesn't give their voluntary, informed consent," said Dr. Sondra Crosby of Boston University, one of the authors. "A military physician needs to be a physician first and a military officer second, in my opinion."
As of two weeks ago, according to a Guantanamo spokesman cited in the article, there are 23 detainees on hunger strike, and 20 of them are being force-fed.

Now, I can give an educated guess as to what would happen if the U.S. were to allow the detainees starve themselves to death. Muslims would likely take to the streets around the world, protesting loudly (if not violently) in Western nations, and attacking any people or symbols of the West in Arab and Muslim nations. I also believe that there would be an outcry from these same doctors and others on the political left, deriding the military for "forcing the detainees into such a desperate situation," and calling for an immediate closing of Guantanamo to be following quickly by Congressional investigations. I may be wrong, but the scenario I have just laid out is, at the very least, plausible.

Personally, I say let the detainees starve themselves to death. Those Muslims who would riot don't need a reason, they just need an excuse, so that violence is inevitable. As for the doctors and the political Left, just call them out on it and make them explain why we shouldn't have followed their advice, and the advice of their fellow doctors.

After all, back in 2005, several doctors spoke about the elegant and gentle death of starvation and dehydration, and how such a death was dignified and peaceful.

"The process of starving to death seems very barbaric but in actuality is very peaceful."
Dr. Fred Mirarchi, assistant clinical professor of emergency medicine at Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia.

"It's usually quite a peaceful death. The person generally looks as if he or she is drifting off to sleep, and then dies."
Dr. Russell Portenoy, chair of palliative care at the Beth Israel Medical Center in New York.

"From the data that is available, it [the process of dying that begins when food and fluids cease] is not a horrific thing at all."
Dr. Linda Emanuel, the founder of the Education for Physicians in End-of-Life Care Project at Northwestern University.

They generally slip into a peaceful coma. It's very quiet, it's very dignified - it's very gentle."
Dr. Sean Morrison, a professor of geriatrics and palliative care at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York.

"What my patients have told me over the last 25 years is that when they stop eating and drinking, there's nothing unpleasant about it -- in fact, it can be quite blissful and euphoric. It's a very smooth, graceful and elegant way to go."
Dr. Perry G. Fine, vice president of medical affairs at the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization in Arlington, Va.
All those doctors couldn't be wrong, could they? And besides, what should we do when a detainee chooses to starve himself? We already know from those doctors that force-feeding is unethical, and seeing that starvation is so painless and dignified, would those doctors really want the U.S. to do anything more than to inform the detainee of the consequences of his actions so that he can make a voluntary and informed decision?

Let's be humane and allow the detainees such a blissful and euphoric exit. It's the ethical thing to do.


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