Today’s concept you can’t unlearn. #RectalFeeding
— Kathryn Cramer (@KathrynECramer) December 10, 2014
Lawyers for Gitmo detainees, especially for the recently released Abu Wa’el Dhiab, argue the method used for force-feeding hunger-strikers amounts to to torture. Given the apparent use of force-feeding as torture in the past, that claim should receive renewed attention.
Brian Merchant discovers that rectal feeding is “a century-old technique that rose to prominence during World War I”:
It was invented by an American surgeon named John Benjamin Murphy (the apparatus is called the Murphy Drip to this day), and was used to both deliver drugs and to keep patients hydrated when they lost use of their mouth.
Over the course of the century, as physicians became more skilled at administering intravenous therapy, the Murphy Drip fell out of regular use. In a 2010 article in the journal Emergency Nurse, the author notes that while rectal rehydration is still occasionally used in Chinese medicine to administer herbal remedies, “With the widespread use of intravenous infusions in contemporary emergency nursing, some might question whether there is a place for proctoclysis.”
But the CIA used it anyway, and often.
Russell Saunders, a doctor, is appalled:
Even if one accepts the highly dubious notion that anyone believed “rectal feedings” were a legitimate means of nourishing someone, there was no reason to consider such extreme measures in the first place. The rule of thumb in medicine is “if the guts works, use it,” meaning that it’s best to use the stomach to hydrate a patient if it’s functioning properly. There is no indication that these detainees couldn’t have had tubes inserted into their stomachs through their noses for the purposes of feeding them, assuming that respecting their right to refuse food had already been thrown out the window. For hydration, an IV would have been effective, as CIA medical officers conceded.
What those same medical officers acknowledge is that using the rectum to hydrate prisoners (which would, in contrast to feeding, at least work) was an effective means of behavior modification. These procedures weren’t undertaken because they were necessary. They were done to give a thin patina of ersatz legitimacy to what is otherwise flagrant sexual assault. The details differ but the intent is the same as in a high-profile case of police brutality.
A reader imagines the response to this news:
The phrase “rectal feeding”, which I for one have never heard before (has anyone?), is what will ensure the viral power of the Senate Committee report. Whatever it takes I guess.
Take it away, Twitter:
#RectalFeeding I don’t think at any point in my life I would have ever put those 2 words together.
— The Spin (@bridgepea) December 9, 2014
“#RectalFeeding“?!??!!???? Just when I think we can’t get any worse, the human species reaches a new low. What human(?) conceived of this?
— LizR (@lizroby) December 9, 2014
Rectal feeding … courtesy bottom-feeders. #RectalFeeding
— P.M. Carpenter (@CarpenterPM) December 10, 2014
— GospelPanacea (@GospelPanacea) December 9, 2014