SACRAMENTO -- A prisoners' rights lawyer says Monday's federal judge's order allowing California prison doctors to force-feed inmates on hunger strike "violates international law and generally accepted medical ethics."
Force-feeding "should only be used as a last resort, but here there are a number of reasonable alternatives,” said Jules Lobel, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, who represents many of the hunger strike leaders in their related lawsuit over solitary confinement conditions at Pelican Bay State Prison.
California state lawyers Monday asked U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson for an order giving prison doctors wide latitude to decide when they can override prisoners' wishes and take steps to keep them alive or prevent "great bodily harm."
The World Medical Assn. in 2006 declared that force-feeding "contrary to an informed and voluntary refusal is unjustifiable." However, lawyers for California Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris argued that some inmates were forced by prison gangs to join the hunger strike. Because of that, Henderson also gave California prison officials permission to ignore recently signed "do not resuscitate" orders.