Letter Urges End to GTMO Force-Feeding

On August 12, 2013, over 400 health care professionals and human rights leaders sent the letter below to President Obama, urging him to stop the force-feeding of Guantánamo hunger strikers, immediately release the detainees approved for release, and make closing Guantánamo his first priority. Sponsored by Psychologists for Social Responsibility and signed by ten additional organizations, the letter focuses on the ethical and professional dilemmas of Guantánamo health personnel who force-feed the detainees.

A PDF version of this letter is available here: Download PDF

August 12, 2013

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

We are health care professionals, members of human rights organizations, and others deeply concerned about the delays in closing the Guantánamo Bay detention camp and the appalling treatment of the detainees on hunger strike.

The hunger strike has now passed its sixth month and up to 106 detainees have joined, with as many as 46 of them subjected to force-feeding. The President of the American Medical Association (AMA) has written to Defense Secretary Hagel that force-feeding mentally competent adults is a violation of medical ethics. The American Nursing Association (ANA) position statement, consistent with the Code of Ethics for Nurses, asserts that “acceptance or refusal of food and fluids, whether delivered by normal or artificial means must be respected.”

The Guantánamo Command maintains that force-feeding the prisoners is necessary to save lives and that the procedures conform to acceptable practice. We strongly disagree. There is alarming evidence in news reports and in the new Guantánamo Standard Operating Procedures: Medical Management of Detainees on Hunger Strike (SOP) that the Guantánamo method is exceptionally brutal. When a detainee resists, he is forcefully extracted from his cell by several soldiers and strapped into a 6-point restraint chair. A mask is placed over his mouth to keep him from biting or spitting at medical personnel. He may stay strapped down for two hours while personnel make sure he does not vomit the liquid feeding. Men weakened by significant weight loss are particularly at risk for serious injury during this regimen.

Recently, a Guantánamo official announced that no soldiers were needed to tackle and shackle any detainees for 24 hours. In other words, detainees have resisted the force-feeding so frequently and intensely that extraction from their cells has been a regular occurrence. The argument that the force-feeding saves lives is ethically and medically untenable. Even Guantánamo authorities acknowledge that the hunger strike is fueled by despair. If the strike is broken by the punitive procedures and the indefinite detention continues, the number of suicides at Guantanamo, already high, is very likely to increase.

Health care professionals, including those in the military, must maintain their licenses in good standing, and to do so they must follow standards of good ethical practice. This is not what is happening during the hunger strike. The new Standard Operating Procedures allow them to stop the force-feeding only when the detainee agrees to eat or drink in a normal way. When faced with an ethical or medical dilemma, it is the duty of health care professionals to consult with expert colleagues independent of the case. However, information is classified at Guantánamo and there is no protocol in place for medical personnel to be able to consult with ethics experts and the state licensing boards that are responsible for defining and protecting practice standards. Guantánamo doctors, nurses and psychologists are also constrained from securing the support of their professional colleagues if they experience reprisals for registering a complaint or refusing to participate further.

We urge you, Mr. President, to act immediately before more prisoners die. A Federal judge has confirmed that you can order a stop to the force-feeding that she has called “a painful, humiliating and degrading” process. As Commander-in-Chief you can immediately release those who were approved for release years ago and make closing Guantánamo your top priority. Far from showing weakness or endangering national security, these actions would affirm your duty to uphold the US Constitution, strengthen our nation’s resolve to protect human rights, and deter the recruitment of violent extremists who view us as a heartless enemy.


Yosef Brody, PhD
President-Elect, Psychologists for Social Responsibility

Organizational Signers
Psychologists for Social Responsibility
Advocates for Survivors of Torture and Trauma
Center for Constitutional Rights
Center for Justice & Accountability
Coalition for an Ethical Psychology
Massachusetts Campaign Against Torture
New York University/Bellevue Survivor of Torture Program
New York University Center for Health and Human Rights
Physicians for Human Rights
Program for Torture Victims in Los Angeles
Utah Health and Human Rights

Individual Signers (listed affiliations are for identification purposes only)
Dan Aalbers
Najma Adam, PhD
Glenn Adams
Afroza Akhter, PhD
Jacqueline Akhurst, PhD, York St John University
Aida Alayarian, PhD
Jay Albrecht, PhD, Mensa
Jo Allen, Doctorate
Scott Allen, MD, University of California Riverside School of Medicine
Neil Altman, PhD, White Alanson White Institute
Mary Jane Alumbaugh, PhD, American Psychological Association
Caterina Arcidiacono, University Federico II
Nick Armitage, MBA
Adrianne Aron, PhD
Bonnie Aronowitz, PhD
Jean Maria Arrigo, PhD, Project on Ethics and Art in Testimony
Nancy Arvold, PhD, MFT, Psychologists for Social Responsibility
Holly Atkinson, MD, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
Christine Bachman, PhD, University of Houston
Kim Bartholomew, PhD, Simon Fraser University
Claire Basescu, PhD, William Alanson White Institute
Lynn Bayley, Survivors of Torture and Trauma and Rehabilitation Services, South Australia
Christopher Beasley, MA, DePaul University
Rachel Becker
Martin Berenberg, PhD
Keven Bermudez, Med, Allied Board of Mental Health Professionals Massachusetts
Steven Bhardwaj, MA, Boston University
Louise Bickman, PhD
Trudy Bond
Marit Borchgrevink, Norwegian Psychological Association
Nancy Bothne, DePaul University
Steve Botticelli
Ghislaine Boulanger, PhD, New York University Postdoctoral Program in Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy
Anne Bourne, Psychology, Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency
J. Wesley Boyd, MD, PhD, Harvard Medical School
Lila Braine, PhD, Barnard College, Columbia University
Augustine Brannigan, PhD, University of Calgary
Susan Brody, MSW
Yosef Brody, PhD, President-Elect, Psychologists for Social Responsibility
Daniel Brown, PsyD
Lawrence Brown, PhD, American Psychological Association, Psychologists for Social Responsibility
Annette Brownlie, BA nursing, Just Peace Queensland
Sara Buckingham, University of Maryland, Baltimore County
Heather Bullock, PhD, University of California, Santa Cruz
Erin Bumgarner, PhD
Susie Burke, PhD, Australian Psychological Society
Dorothy Burlage, PhD
Bonnie Burstein, PhD, Los Angeles Harbor College
Mark Burton, PhD, Manchester Metropolitan University
Kaanan Butor, Doctorate, National Health Service
Cath Byrne, PhD
Sarah Caldwell, EdD
Marc Campbell, DO, PhD
Patrice Campion, MSc
Paula Caplan, PhD, Harvard University
Gary Cappy, NC Peace Action
Matthew Cardinale
Jack Carney, DSW
Claudia Cespedes
Marilyn Charles, PhD, ABPP, Austen Riggs Center
Noam Chomsky, PhD, MIT
Daniel Christie, PhD, Ohio State University
Howard Christofersen, MD, United Church of Christ
Scott Churchill, PhD, University of Dallas
Dorothy Ciarlo, PhD
Ann Clarkson, PhD, Oregon Psychological Association
Philip Claus, MSW, Manhattan Institute for Psychoanalysis
Janet Cleveland, PhD, McGill University Health Centre
Zac Cogley, PhD
Tom Cohen, DMH, Psychoanalytic Institute of Northern California
J.V. Connors, PhD
James Conway, PhD, Central Connecticut State University
Paul Conway, PhD, The University of Western Ontario
David Cooper, PhD, American Philosophical Association
Kathryn Cooper, PsyD
Laura Corlew, PhD, East-West Center
Brad Cotton, MD
Andrea Cousins, PhD, PsyD
Wendy Cousins, PhD
Gerrit Crouse, PhD, American Psychological Association
Marci Culley, PhD, College of Coastal Georgia
Adele Cuthbert, PhD
Nina Thorup Dalgaard, MSc, Copenhagen University
Kate Danvers, Psych. D., British Psychological Society
Leslie Darhansoff, MSW, Program for Victims of Torture
Gail Davidge, Psychology, Manchester Metropolitan University
Martha Davis, PhD
Yaya de Andrade, PhD, City University of Seattle
Vincent DeCesare, BA, Fordham University
Edmond Degaiffier, MSW
Thomas Delaney, PhD
Chante’ DeLoach, PsyD, Chicago School of Professional Psychology
Morton Deutsch, PhD
Robert Diamond, MSc, British Psychological Society
Donna DiCello, PsyD
Lori Divine-Hudson, MEd
Aisha Dixon, PsyD, University of La Verne
Kathleen Dockett, EdD, Society for the Study of Peace, Conflict, and Violence, American Psychological Association Division 48
Ursula Düll-Esse, Diplom-Psychologe
Silvia Dutchevici, MA, MSW, Critical Therapy Center
Pierre Duterte, MD, Parcours d Exil
John Dyckman, PhD, American Psychological Association
Stephanie Dykema, MEd, American Psychological Association
David Edwards, MD
Diane Ehrensaft, PhD, University of California San Francisco
Jan Eidelson
Judy Eidelson, PhD, Penn Center for Public Health Initiatives
Roy Eidelson, PhD, Past President, Psychologists for Social Responsibility
Barbara Eisold, PhD, Yeshiva University: Cardozo Human Rights Clinic and Ferkauf Graduate Program in Psychology
Irene Elkin, PhD, University of Chicago
Javier Enríquez Sam, Médico, Coordinador del Colectivo Contra la Tortura y la Impunidad
Edward Erdos, PhD
Connie Evert, PhD
Nate Ewigman
Mary Fabri, PsyD
Ruth Fallenbaum, PhD
Abimbola Farinde, PharmD, MS
Leo Fenzel, PhD, Loyola University Maryland
Jesica Fernandez, MA, University of California
Ruben David Fernández Carrasco, Cooperativa ETCS
Gabriella Ferrari Bravo
Rona Fields, PhD, Associates in Community Psychology; Howard University
Edward Fink, PhD, University of Maryland
Dora Fisher, PhD, New York University
William Flack, PhD, Bucknell University
Rebecca Foushee, PhD, American Psychological Association
Dennis Fox, PhD
Deveda Francois
Marion Frank, EdD
James Frank, PhD
David Fryer, PhD, Australian Institute of Psychology
Elizabeth Freeman, York St John University
Milton Fuentes, PsyD, Montclair State University
Ben Garcia, PhD Candidate
Arancha Garcia del Soto, PhD, PsySR, Mundubat Human Rights, Fordham University
Daniel Gaylinn, PhD, Association for Transpersonal Psychology
Meghan Geary, MA, Albany Medical College
Hans Geisse, MD
Katie Gentile, PhD, John Jay College of Criminal Justice
Mary Gergen, PhD, Penn State University, Brandywine
Johanna Goll, PhD
Elan Golomb, PhD, American Psychological Association
Carlos Gonsalves, PhD
Amanda Gordon, University of Canberra
Elizabeth Goren, PhD, New York University
Bec Goudie
Nathaniel Granger, PsyD, Society of Humanistic Psychology
Gerald Gray, MSW, MPH, Institute for Redress & Recovery
Suzan Greenberg, PsyD
James Greene, PhD, Northern Michigan University
Thomas Greenspon, PhD, Greenspon Associates, P.A.
Don Greif, William Alanson White Institute
Heather Gridley, MA, Australian Psychological Society
Henriette Groot, PhD, Psychologists for Social Responsibility
Susan Gutwill, CSW, MS, Women’s Therapy Centre Institute
Skye Haberman, PsyD
Mitchell Hall, PhD, PsycHealth, Ltd.
Joar Halvorsen, Norwegian University of Science and Technology
Robert Hamm, PhD, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center
Steven Handwerker, PhD, International Association for the Advancement of Human Welfare
Hedda Haning, MD
Ian Hansen, PhD, York College, CUNY
Janice Hansen, PhD
Elisabeth Harnes, MA
Cathy Harris, MSW, LCSW, Trauma-Informed Training Group
Tracy Hart, MSW
Haakon Haugland, MA
Elizabeth Hegeman, PhD, John Jay College of Criminal Justice
Elaine Heiby, PhD, University of Hawaii at Manoa
Carolyn Hicks, EdD
David Hilfiker, MD
Charles Hill, PhD, Whittier College
Steven Hobbs, PhD
Jonathan Hoistad, PHD, Natalis
Elaine Holder, PhD
Nancy Hollander, PhD, Psychoanalytic Institute of Northern California
Noel Hunter, MA, Long Island University
Sandy Irving
Michael Jackson, PhD, Earlham College
Carol Jackson, PhD
Jacob Jaffe, American Psychological Association
Debra Japko, MS
Matthew Johnson, PhD, John Jay College of Criminal Justice
Rebecca Johnson, PhD, Rochester Institute of Technology
Cameron Jones
Laara Jupp, Doctorate, British Psychological Society
Dorothy Kahler, PsyD
Sarah Kamens, MA, Fordham University
Rikke Kann
David Kannerstein, PhD
Daniela Kantorova, PsyD Candidate, Psychologists for Social Responsibility
Kristin Karlsen
Anas Karzai, PhD, Laurentian University
Sarah Kass, PhD, Saybrook University
Hulya Kaz
Bonnie Keisner, LCSW
Robert Keisner, PhD, Long Island University
Allen Keller, MD, NYU School of Medicine
Herbert Kelman, PhD, Harvard University
Edward Kelty, PhD
Jane Kenner, PhD, Psychoanalytic Institute of Northern California
Shelia Kennison, PhD
Jim Kent, MD, American Medical Association
Glory Kilanko
Paul Kimmel, PhD, Saybrook University
Robin Kirk, Duke University
Gordon Klock
Rebecca Klott, PhD, Michigan Psychological Association
Laurie Knightly, MA
Alexa Koenig, JD, PhD, Human Rights Center, University of California Berkeley School of Law
Irene Landsman, PhD
Caroline Lane, MA, Flushing Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends
Jonathan Lang, PhD, MPH, Borough of Manhattan Community College, City University of New York
Elisabeth Langdal
Benjamin Lapkin, PhD, New York University Postdoctoral Program in Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy
Susan Lee, PsyD
Edward Lefrak, MD
Brenda LeFrancois, PhD, Memorial University of Newfoundland
Nathaniel Lehrman, MD
Justine Leichtling, PsyD, Psychologists for Social Responsibility
Johan Lepage, PhD, Grenoble-Alpes University
Diane Levin, PhD, Wheelock College
Ellen Levine, PhD, MPH, Walden University
George Levinger, PhD, University of Massachusetts-Amherst
Julie Meranze Levitt, PhD, Psychologists for Social Responsibility
Siobhan Lilley, Refugee Trauma Recovery
VeLora Lilly, PhD
Suzanne Little, PhD
Jancis Long, PhD, Psychologists for Social Responsibility
Bernice Lott, PhD
Jacqui Lovell, BSc, York St John University
Sarah Lowen, PsyD, American School of Professional Psychology at Argosy University
Mark Lowenthal, PsyD
Alan Timothy Lunceford – Stevens, BA, End AIDS Now
Ian Lustick, PhD, University of Pennsylvania
M. Brinton Lykes, PhD, Boston College
Rachel MacNair, PhD, President, Society for the Study of Peace, Conflict, and Violence, American Psychological Association Division 48
Filipa Madeirs, MA, CIS-IUL Centro de Investigacao e Intervencao Social
Nino Makhashvili, MD, Ilia State University
Kathleen Malley-Morrison, EdD, Boston University
Dorothy Mandel, PhD, Psychologists for Social Responsibility
Latika Mangrulkar, MSW, ACSW, Psychologists for Social Responsibility
Matlin Margaret, PhD, State University of New York Geneseo
Laura Markuson, PhD candidate, National Louis University
Frank Marotta, PhD
Tina Maschi, PhD, President, National Organization of Forensic Social Work
Brooke Massey, MA, Antioch University Seattle
Shirley Matulich, MA, MLS, American Art Therapy Association, American Library Association
Cathy McCormack
Maureen McGlinn, MA, MiSPP
Steve Melluish, Doctorate, University of Leicester
Patrizia Meringolo, University of Florence
Daniel Meyers, LL.B.
Charlotte Michie, MSW, National Association for Social Workers
Anniina Miettinen, MA
Bruce Miller, JD
Rebecca Miller, PhD
Majid Mirza
Gemma Mitchell, British Psychological Society
Tamerra Moeller, PhD, Psychologists for Social Responsibility
Edith Montgomery, PhD, DMSc, DIGNITY – Danish Institute Against Torture
Vince Morgante, MA, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist
Claire Morse, PhD, Guilford College
Carol Mosher, PhD Educational Psych
David Moshman, PhD, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Sean Moundas, PsyD
Kathleen Murphy, PsyD, Chicago School of Professional Psychology
Nicholas Myerberg, Wesleyan University
Maria Nardone, PhD, White Institute
Donna Nassor, JD
Slater Newman
Lynn Newsom, MA, Quaker House
Michelle Nguyen, BA, Harvard University
David Nichols, PhD
Maureen Nickerson, MA
Rael Nidess, MD
Veronica Norburn, MA
Patrick O’Loughlin, MSc, W. Norway Centre on Violence, Traumatic Stress and Suicide Prevention
Ruth Ochroch, PhD
Joanna Oleson, PsyD, Diagnostics LLP
Sandy Olliges, MA Human Science, Shamanistic Pathways
Brad Olson, PhD, National Louis University—Chicago
Gudrun Opitz, PhD, William Aronson White Institute
Susan Opotow, PhD, City University of New York
Barbara Orton, BA
Stuart Oskamp, PhD, Claremont Graduate University
Julie Oxenberg, PhD, Center for Psychotherapy and Spirituality, MSPP
Rish Pana
Mary Pelton-Cooper, PsyD, American Psychological Association, Association for Women in Psychology, Psychologists for Social Responsibility
Raymond Phillips, Psychologists for Social Responsibility
Evone Phoo, MA
Naomi Pinson, MEd, Advocates, Inc.
María Teresa Pitarch Saborir
Jerome Poliacoff, PhD, APA
Deborah Popowski, JD, Harvard Law School International Human Rights Clinic
Jose Quiroga, MD, Program for Torture Victims
Shulamit Ramon, PhD, Anglia Ruskin University
Allen Ratcliffe, PhD
Stacey Rees, CNM, MA, Clementine Midwifery
Hannes Reichegger
Dee Reid, MS, APA, STP and SPSSI
Steven Reisner, PhD, President – Psychologists for Social Responsibility
Ruth Richards, PhD, MD, Saybrook University
Andrew Rivers, MS
Margaret Roberts, MA, Mount Royal University
Betty Roca, Psicólogos Sin Fronteras
Constancia Romilly, MS, RN
Luica Roncalli, MD, UCSF Santa Rosa Family Medicine
Alberto Rosa, PhD, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid
Kathleen Rospenda, PhD, University of Illinois at Chicago
Sergio Rothstein, PhD
Shawn Rubin, PsyD, Saybrook University
Floyd Rudmin, PhD, University of Tromso
Anne Rufa, MA, DePaul University
Ida Rump, BA
Nestar Russell, PhD, Nipissing University
Maria Russo, PhD, Psychologists for Social Responsibility
Terry Ruthrauff, PsyD, Psychologists for Social Responsibility
Elizabeth Saenger
Laurie Sakaeda, PhD
Shara Sand, PsyD, LaGuardia Community College, CUNY
Jone Schanche Olsen, MD, CFCC
Michael Schmitt, PhD, Simon Fraser University
Peter Schneider, PhD
Marieke Schouten, MPH, War Trauma Foundation
Anita Schrader McMillan, PhD, Medical School, University of Warwick
Hildegunn Marie Schuff, M. Phil., Ansgar University College
Brian Schwartz, PhD, Chairman, Suzhou Success Partners Management Consulting Company
Leon Seltzer, PhD
Gunes Sevinc
Azadeh Shahshahani, JD, National Lawyers Guild
Sabeen Shaiq, MSW
Alice Shaw, PhD, Psychologists for Social Responsibility; Psychoanalysis for Social Responsibility
Dee Shepherd-Look, PhD, California State University Northridge
Beth Shinn, PhD, Vanderbilt University
Elizabeth Shockley, PhD, University of Chicago and University of Nebraska
Shielagh Shusta-Hochberg, PhD, Psychologists for Social Responsibility, American Psychological Association
Andrew Sieff, MS, RN
Charles J. Sirey
John-Arne Skolbekken
Kate Slaney, PhD, Simon Fraser University
Anne Slanina, Psychologists for Social Responsibility
Nick Slaven, University of California Davis
David Sloan-Rossiter, PhD, Boston Institute for Psychotherapy
Eileen Smit, RN, MSN
Stephen Soldz, PhD, Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis
Luis Soto, PhD
Philip Spencer
Christian Stalberg, Academi Watch
Jon Karl Stefansson, University of Tromsø
Lu Steinberg, PsyD, Columbia University
S. Steinberg, MA
Monika Stelzl, PhD, St. Thomas University
John Stewart, Member of The Flushing Quaker Meeting House
Kim Stewart, MSW, Friends of the Earth Australia
Marguerite Stewart, PsyD, American Psychological Association, Division 39, Section 9
John Stewart, PhD, Northland College
Lloyd Stires, PhD
Michelle Stratton, LICSW
Melissa Strompolis, MS, SCRA, Psychologists for Social Responsibility
Michael Struett, PhD, North Carolina State University
Marita-Constance Supan, PhD
Marilyn Terrill, PhD, Kalamazoo Clinical Associates, PC
Jeff Thomas, BSc, International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims
Ron Thomas
Nina Thomas, PhD, New York University Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis
Chalmer Thompson, PhD, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis
Patricia Thrasher, MEd
David Thurn, LCSW-R, William Alanson White Institute
Rebecca Trotzky-Sirr, MD, Program for Torture Victims
Franziska Tschan Semmer, PhD, Université de Neuchâtel, Work and Organizational Psychology
Salman Türken
Melissa Tweedie, BA, Survivors of Torture and Trauma Assistance and Rehabilitation Service
Judith Uhrick, MSW
Robert van Voren, PhD, Federation Global Initiative on Psychiatry, Vytautas Magnus University, Ilia State University
Ernesto Vasquez, MD
Eve Vaszolyi, PhD, APS
Tony Vazquez, MSW
Karin Verland, Doctor, DIGNITY – Danish Institute Against Torture
Judah Viola, PhD, National Louis University
Johanna Vollhardt, PhD, Clark University
B. Lynn Wadelton, PhD
Richard Wagner, Bates College
Richard Wahl, MD, University of Arizona
Nancy Walker, MA
Joan Walsh, PhD
Henriette Warfield, BA, Pacifica Graduate Institute
Mary Watkins, PhD, Pacifica Graduate Institute
Renate Watkinson
Helena Weil, PhD
Amy Wenzel, PhD, ABPP, University of Pennsylvania
Michael Wessells, PhD, Columbia University
Margaret White, PhD
Amanda Williams, MSc, PhD, University College London
Judith Wohlhueter, MA
Christian Wolff, MA, Oregon Licensed Psychologist Associates for PsyA
Rosemarie Woodruff, PhD, American Counseling Association
Linda Woolf, PhD, Webster University
Kenneth Worthy, PhD, University of California, Santa Cruz
Stephen Wright, PhD, Simon Fraser University
Rafael Wurzel, MD
Lois Gitlin Wurzel, MD
Stephen Xenakis, MD, Physicians for Human Rights
Malihe Yari
Choichiro Yatani, PhD, Alfred State College
Binbay Yavuz, Centre Action Sociale Réhabilitation et Réadaptation pour les Victimes de la Torture
Philip Zimbardo, PhD, Stanford University
David Zimmerman, MD, New York University Medical Center
Sally Zlotowitz
Edward Zuckerman, PhD
Günter Zurhorst, Prof. Dr.

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