That Forcefeeding Video

I’m going to state right now that for most cases I am completely against force-feeding. There are issues of capacity and sacrifice and so on that would take a post of its own to describe, and that is not what I’m writing about here.
It’s the Yasiin Bey video showing him undergoing the procedure for the force-feeding of a prisoner at Guantanamo bay. It was created to highlight the evil of force-feeding.  

Here it is.

I have serious issues with this video.

Here is another video showing the exact same procedure.

(Here is a video on how to insert one into an eight month old child)

The procedure shown is the insertion of a nasogastric (NG) tube. I have placed more NG tubes than I can remember and I have never seen a reaction as strong as that shown in the first video. It certainly isn’t very pleasant to have a NG tube inserted as it tickles the back of the throat that makes you want to gag (or swallow), but it is not this apparent torture that is being shown.

An NG tube is inserted in hospitals for a number of reasons, sometimes for surgery, sometimes because a patient cannot swallow.

In the first video Yasiin Bey isn’t given water to drink during the procedure, but in many of my patient’s I also couldn’t give them anything to drink to ease the passing of the tube as these patients would have no gag reflex and so giving them water could result in them inhaling rather than swallowing the water. Inhaling water can have side effects that include death.

Yasiin Bey is also shown to be resisting, while the person in the second video is complying with instructions. Many of the patients that I passed an NG tube into had some form of confusion, either due to a stroke, due to dementia or due to a multitude of other causes . In some cases I would be passing a tube into the stomach of someone against their will because they had tried to commit suicide and were under a Mental Health Section.

Even in these cases I never saw a reaction as strong as that of Yasiin Bey.

Note also in the video that at one point Yasiin Bey’s hands and head are restrained, but later on they they are free – all to show how the medical staff have to use physical force to hold him down which makes it look even more brutal.

Once an NG tube is in place you can leave it in. So it is not something that necessarily needs to be done twice a day although in this case they may remove the tube in order to stop the prisoner from hanging themselves with it, or for some other operational issue.

This video is bad for two reasons. First – it makes a medical procedure which is carried out in hospitals up and down the country in the order of probably hundreds of times a day look like torture. As I note, it’s not pleasant, but it certainly isn’t torture.

The second reason is that this video is, in my mind, a lie. The discomfort is exaggerated, the physical restraint is unnecessary, and it is filmed to be as ‘shocking’ as possible.

Similar to what Islamaphobes do this is ‘othering’ the enemy. The people inserting the tube aren’t human, they don’t have faces – they are just shown as unremitting medical automatons. How is this different to how Islamaphobes only show the fully veiled woman or the bearded terrorist?

This video is the equivalent of an anti-vaccine campaigner, thrashing, fainting and drooling after a ‘flu jab. And we would challenge that video as being untruthful. We need to do the same here.

We need to be better than this – the Islamaphobes and warmongers can and do lie, they hide things, they distort and deny. Those of us on the side of peace need to avoid stooping to this level. We need to be better than this, because every time our opposing number can catch us in a lie our support will drop, we’ll be targeted by the media (just look at how the news is now about Snowden himself and not about how the NSA and others spying on us), and what is worse is we’ll lose the support of those who are most likely to be swayed by truth.

Truth sets us free, propaganda keeps us in chains – and in my opinion this is propaganda.

4 thoughts on “That Forcefeeding Video”

  1. Except that the people in Guantanamo ARE resisting, ARE restrained like that, ARE held down by multiple people. Force feedings take 2 hours or more, and then the prisoners are subsequently left restrained in the chair so that they can’t induce vomiting. This happens twice a day.

    There is an obvious difference between a medically necessary provision of sustenance to an unresisting patient, OR a patient that is incapable "of forming an unimpaired and rational judgment", and a prisoner who is refusing to eat and having a feeding tube forced on them. That bit in quotes is a direct line from the WMA’s guidelines in the 1975 Tokyo Declaration:

    "Where a prisoner refuses nourishment and is considered by the physician as capable of forming an unimpaired and rational judgment concerning the consequences of such a voluntary refusal of nourishment, he or she shall not be fed artificially. The decision as to the capacity of the prisoner to form such a judgment should be confirmed by at least one other independent physician. The consequences of the refusal of nourishment shall be explained by the physician to the prisoner."

    Nearly every major Western nation abides by this. And even in the US, force feeding is NOT carried out in most prison systems. Except here, in this extralegal holding facility where half the remaining inmates have been cleared of charges but can’t go home, and most all of whom have been kept, for sometimes decades, without trial. That’s not propaganda. That’s fact.

    1. Andrew I agree – in these cases force-feeding is wrong and I have no problem with people protesting about it/highlighting it or trying to stop it. My sole point is that this video is damaging to this argument because it makes the passing of an NG tube appear to be awful when it isn’t – restrained or not. And so we end up with a lie (this video) in order to fight another lie (that we have the right to force feed people who have capacity to refuse) and when lies fight no-one comes out smelling of roses.

      Guantanamo is an evil place born of an evil idea and should be shut down but we should use truth as ammunition, not lies.

      1. I think you’re talking past each other. The point of this video is to show what happens when you put a NG tube into someone actively refusing and fighting against it. You seem surprised by the fact that "Yasiin Bey is also shown to be resisting" – that’s the whole point! I also don’t know why you say "they may remove the tube". Either they remove the tube, or the prisoner will, unless you keep them restrained 24/7. That’s what resisting <i>means</i>.

  2. If I’ve learned anything from Intubation it’s that getting a tube down the oesophagus is actually quite easy…

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