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Force-feeding at Guantanamo
  1. George J Annas
  1. Correspondence to Professor George J Annas, Center for Health Law, Ethics & Human Rights, Boston University School of Public Health, Boston, MA 01228, USA; annasgj{at}

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Autonomy and its enabler, informed consent, have been under intense attack from those who believe ‘truly’ informed consent is impossible, those who promote ‘broad’ or ‘blanket’ consent (especially for genetics research), and those who want to eliminate consent altogether in cases of medical research (especially standard of care and learning research), medical necessity, public health, mental disability and national security. Garasic wants to add biopolitics to the forces constraining autonomy, and concentrates on Guantanamo and ‘other cases of enforced medical treatment.’ But there really are no ‘other cases’ quite like Guantanamo and its hunger striking prisoners who have for more than a decade been arbitrarily detained, tortured and violently force-fed, with the blessing of military physicians and lawyers.

There are lessons of ‘biopolitics’ in Guantanamo—but force-feeding at Guantanamo is much more in the realm of war crimes and crimes against humanity than medical treatment: the primary reason President Obama is in the process of closing the facility before he leaves office. US courts have kept hands off, and only one hunger striker, Abu Wa'el (Jihad) Dhiab, has ever been able to have his force-feedings at Guantanamo reviewed by a judge. In 2014, US District Court Judge Gladys Kessler reviewed Dhiab's 10-year continuous hunger strike during which he was …

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  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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