Lessons
1 Definitions
2 Perspectives
3 Guidelines
4 Hunger Strikes

Test lesson 3
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Hunger strike - International guidelines and medical management

Prison doctors placed in such situations of dual (or divided) loyalties often flout medical ethics – either intentionally, or forced to do so by their authorities. Prison doctors have been known to threaten hunger strikers with grave medical sequelae that are simply fictitious. In one example, doctors spread the word amongst hunger strikers that fasting caused impotence, with the sole purpose of frightening them into giving up their fasting. This sort of action is unethical, as it abuses prisoners' trust in the medical staff, and uses medical influence trough trickery and false medical advice .

For these reasons, doctors' roles in hunger strikes in prison settings are often ambivalent. On the one hand, food refusers with no intention of harming themselves may see prison doctors as their saviors, providing timely artificial feeding before any harm is done. On the other hand, political prisoners may see physicians as doctor tormentors, prescribing and implementing force-feeding on the instructions of the coercive authorities, and thereby betraying their roles as physicians.

Outside doctors and medical associations should give support to all doctors working in positions of dual loyalties (Army, prison, police doctors…). Medical ethics should apply across the board to the whole medical profession, and doctors in such situations should not have their own sets of ethics. Such doctors should be able to appeal to a higher medical authority if they receive orders from their employers that go against the basic principles of medical ethics.


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