An apology is in order. After reading more reader emails on this subject, and after properly reading and thinking about Conor’s original post, I withdraw my aside that this wasn’t technically torture because it was not done to procure information and could be defended as a medical procedure to keep someone alive. If the facts of the case are as the lawsuit alleges, Conor is dead right and I am dead wrong. Conor is wrong, however, to say I am blinded by fealty to Obama, as my posts this week on the Senate Intelligence Report should prove. I was, rather, guilty of blogging while traveling.
I hope readers understand I wasn’t defending the ghastly practice, just concerned about the legal technicalities. The manner of this force-feeding, if the lawsuit is correct, puts it in an entirely different category from medical procedures. I should have taken more time. This email was especially persuasive:
I am a surgeon well versed in the use of nasogastric tubes.
You wrote, “Many hospital patients are fed with NG tubes, even children. No one would describe that as torture, if medically necessary”. Andrew, I see many patients who have indisputable medical indications for NG tubes who, when informed of my treatment recommendations, refuse insertion of the tube. If I were to then restrain a coherent patient fully in charge of her mental faculties and forcibly jam the NG tube down that patient’s nose, I would be, incontrovertibly, assaulting that patient.
There are plenty of medical interventions that are justifiably “indicated”. A diabetic with gangrene of the foot may truly need an amputation, but if you restrain him against his will and go lopping off his limb, then you should have to face criminal charges.
This is about consent. Torture isn’t just to elicit information. You have said yourself that torture has nothing to do with intelligence gathering or ticking time-bomb scenarios. It’s all about power and domination.
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