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US Navy Considering Discharge of Nurse Who Followed Ethics & Refused to Force-Feed Guantanamo Prisoner

An attorney for a United States Navy nurse facing potentially severe repercussions for refusing to force-feed a Guantanamo Bay prisoner has indicated that the nurse, who has served nearly 18 years in the Navy, may be discharged. He is one of the only known conscientious objectors to force-feeding of prisoners.

Ron Meister stated in a press conference call organized by the Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), “After the nurse told the superior officer of the decision not to participate in the force-feeding, the Navy drafted criminal charges against the nurse for disobedience of orders. ”

The Navy subsequently decided not to press criminal charges, but instead “started a process that could lead to discharging from the Navy.”

“The nurse’s commanding officer recommended the nurse be brought before a discharge board and be required to show cause to remain in the Navy,” according to Meister. “That recommendation has been going up the chain of command of the Navy and is now awaiting a decision by the chief of naval personnel. If the chief of naval personnel agrees with the recommendation, the case will go to the discharge board and that board could discharge the nurse from the navy which would mean the end of a career after 18 years.”

A discharge would likely mean no retirement benefits. It may also result in no veteran benefits, depending on how he is discharged.

“It would mean a message from the navy that nurses who refuse to participate in force-feeding could lose their careers,” Meister added.

Pamela Cipriano of the American Nurses Association (ANA) declared, “Professional registered nurses operate under a Code of Ethics that emphasizes the right to make independent, ethical judgments regardless of the setting in which nursing care is provided—even if this causes a nurse to experience conflict arising from competing loyalties.”

“The rights of registered nurses to honor their professional ethical obligations regarding force-feeding and other sensitive issues are absolutely protected and should be exercised without fear of retaliation.”

In other words, a nurse should have the right to refuse an order of this kind, even in the military. They should not have to participate in harmful practices widely recognized in medicine as inhuman and degrading treatment.

Nurses also have an ethical responsibility to respect the autonomy of patients, which does not take place at Guantanamo where prisoners are having feeding tubes shoved down their nostrils without their consent. [cont’d.]

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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."