Mon, Jan 09, 2006 - Page 7 News List

Guantanamo hospital official reports force-feeding


New details have emerged of how prisoners on hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay are being tied down and force-fed to keep them alive.

They routinely experience bleeding and nausea, according to a sworn statement by the camp's chief doctor.

"Experience teaches us" that such symptoms must be expected "whenever nasogastric tubes are used," says the affidavit of Captain John Edmondson, commander of Guantanamo's hospital. The procedure -- now standard practice at Guantanamo -- "requires that a foreign body be inserted into the body and, ideally, remain in it."

But staff always use a lubricant, and "a nasogastric tube is never inserted and moved up and down. It is inserted down into the stomach slowly and directly, and it would be impossible to insert the wrong end of the tube." Medical personnel do not insert nasogastric tubes in a manner "intentionally designed to inflict pain."

It is painful, Edmondson admits. Although "non-narcotic pain relievers such as ibuprofen are usually sufficient, sometimes stronger drugs," including morphine, have had to be administered.

Thick, 4.8mm diameter tubes tried previously to allow quicker feeding, so permitting guards to keep prisoners in their cells for longer each day, have been abandoned, the affidavit says. The new 3mm tubes are "soft and flexible."

Solicitors representing some of the hunger strikers, have lodged a court action to be heard next week in California, where Edmondson is registered to practice. They are asking for an order that the state medical ethics board investigate him for "unprofessional conduct" for agreeing to the force-feeding.

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