Hospital told to force feed cannabis farmer

A hospital has been ordered to force feed a man who has gone on hunger strike over his jail term for dealing cannabis.

This content was published on November 3, 2010 - 21:44 and agencies

Esther Waeber-Kalbermatten of the Vaud cantonal security office told Geneva’s University Hospital to take steps to protect the health of Bernard Rappaz, including force feeding him if necessary.

She said there should not be any interruption to his jail term. She told a hastily convened news conference on Wednesday that a Federal Court ruling from August stipulated that force feeding was applicable when it was the only way of avoiding permanent health damage or the death of a detainee on hunger strike.

The Federal Court confirmed again in October that doctors must force feed hunger-striking prisoners if ordered to do so by the authorities.

Last month the hospital said it would be following the wishes of Rappaz and would not force feed him. Various Swiss doctors’ associations have stated that force feeding violates the rights of patients – therefore violating the basic ethics of medicine.

Waeber-Kalbermatten rejected a move by Rappaz’s lawyer for a break in his sentence, saying the conditions were not met, namely the absence of any other measures to protect the person involved or overwhelming public interest in the case.

Rappaz’s lawyer Aba Neeman said he had begun to lose his sight as a result of the hunger strike and was bedridden after 69 consecutive days without food. He did not expect to survive longer than a week, he added.

Rappaz is serving a prison term of over five years for cannabis dealing and other offences. He was in hospital after a hunger strike this summer and was later placed under house arrest before an appeal was rejected. He was subsequently returned to prison, but had to be hospitalised again in mid-October as a result of hypoglycemia.

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