Hunger Strikes: Challenges to the Guantanamo Detainee Health Care Policy
Kristine A. Huskey
Georgetown University Law Center
Stephen N. Xenakis
affiliation not provided to SSRN
Whittier Law Review, Vol. 30, No. 783, Summer 2009
By the time the United States Supreme Court decided Boumediene v. Bush in June 2008, most of the men at Guantánamo had already been detained for six and half years without charge or trial in conditions similar to or worse than those given to convicted felons in maximum security prisons in the U.S. While the contours of the detainees’ legal rights may have been in contention, there is no dispute that the lengthy and seemingly indeterminate years have not been kind to the health of the men. As of 2009, there have been hundreds of attempted suicides — despite the Government reclassifying them as “manipulative self-injurious behavior” — four successful suicides, one death by natural causes and hungers strikes of unprecedented nature both in number and duration. Since 2005, when the infamous “hunger to death” strike involved up to 131 men, hunger strikes and forced feeding has been a regular occurrence at the detention center. Yet, the Government has failed to address this health care crisis in a comprehensive way that treats the patient and speaks to the underlying causes of the strikes. Instead, the Government has resorted to the use of force “to cure the illness,” but not the patient.
This article — by an attorney for the detainees and a retired Brigadier General in the Army Medical Corps — surveys the history of the mass hunger strikes at Guantánamo since 2005, presents two case studies of individual hunger strikers, and then addresses some of the legal considerations and medical ethics of the U.S. Government’s policy and practice regarding the hunger strikes at Guantánamo. The article concludes with recommendations that are more consistent with the guidelines recommended by the World Medical Association for the assessment and treatment of hunger strikers.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 18
Keywords: Guantánamo, hunger strikes, forced feeding, health care, medical ethics, BoumedieneAccepted Paper Series
Date posted: August 5, 2012
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