The prisoner looked pale and weak. He hadn’t had anything in the past several weeks. A security personals team arrived, and he was dragged from his cell to the prisoners’ medical ward. There, he was strapped onto a chair. Two of the security personals restrained his head. A medical professional came forward and tried to insert a thin tube through the prisoner’s nose into his stomach. The prisoner resisted the insertion of the tube shaking up his shackled extremities but to no avail. The tube was set in place, and nutrients were forcefully injected into his stomach. After an hour or so of forceful tube feeds, he was unchained and dragged to the cell where there was no water or plumbing facilities. He was dropped on the floor of the dry cell. Succumbing to the exhaustion of the forceful ingestion of nutrients, his vision blurred. He felt weak and devastated, couldn’t resist him from dozing off.
How it feels when someone feeds you forcibly against your wish. Isn’t the biggest torture to forcefully insert a tube through someone’s nose or mouth and make him ingest essential nutrients through the tube to keep him alive? While the entire medical fraternity from World Medical Association to Red Cross has condemned force feeding time and again, the crude treatment of hunger-struck prison inmates is still unabated in the darkness of the detention centers behind the iron rails. Be it a case of Guantanamo Bay prisoners or Indian civil right activist Irom Sharmila, force feeding has been unethically practiced across the globe.
Forcefully inserting the tube into the patient’s esophagus through nose could be dangerous and fatal if the patient is adamantly rejecting the entire procedure. The tube could end up landing in his lungs through the trachea, undetected; the feeding solution could fill the lungs leading to pneumonia, respiratory failure, or even death. Moreover, the antiemetics that are administered before forcefully injecting the nutrients into human body have debilitating side effects and if taken in a long run could lead to neurological disorders.
It has been recognized by the World’s Medical Association as well as by the UN that a prisoner in his usual state of mind is free to express his emotions and anger by nonviolent means and hunger strike is a form of freedom of expression. It has also been communicated that feeding a prisoner against his wish is unethical, and it is the extremes of human cruelty and should not be practiced.
Recently, the Israeli parliament has also passed a much controversial bill related to force feeding the prisoners who are on the brink after long-standing hunger strikes. Though the force feedings are done in extreme circumstances to save the prisoner’s life, they are seen as yet another form of torture and tyranny.