SETON HALL LAW REPORT SHOWS U.S. MILITARY ROUTINELY ADMINISTERED CONTROVERSIAL DRUG TO DETAINEES IN GUANTÁNAMO BAY

Findings suggest detainees were unnecessarily dosed with a medication known to induce hallucinations, paranoia and psychosis.

Drug Abuse: An Exploration of the Government Use of Mefloquine at Guantánamo

Seton Hall University School of Law’s Center for Policy and Research has issued a report, Drug Abuse: An Exploration of the Government Use of Mefloquine at Guantánamo documenting the medically inappropriate use of a dangerous pharmacological treatment on Guantánamo Bay detainees.

According to the report, the U.S. military routinely administered mefloquine, a controversial malaria treatment, at five times the standard prophylactic dose. Mefloquine, even at the standard dose, is known to cause adverse side effects such as paranoia, hallucinations, aggression, psychotic behavior, memory impairment, convulsions, suicidal ideation and possibly suicide.

The prophylactic dose of mefloquine is 250 mg. On arrival at Guantánamo, as a matter of standard operating procedure, detainees received 1250 mg of mefloquine. The larger dose of mefloquine was administered without taking a patient history of any kind.

Dr. G. Richard Olds, tropical disease specialist and founding Dean of the Medical School of the University of California at Riverside, commented on the long-lasting effects of the drug: “Mefloquine is fat soluble, and as a result, it does build up in the body and has a very long half-life. This is important since a massive dose of this drug is not easily corrected and the ‘side effects’ of the medication could last for weeks or months.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports, and the U.S. military concedes, that malaria is not a threat in Guantánamo. For that reason, U.S. military personnel and contractors are not prescribed any prophylactic anti-malarial medication.

“Mefloquine was administered to detainees contrary to medical protocol or purpose,” commented Professor Mark P. Denbeaux, Director of the Seton Hall Law Center for Policy and Research. “The record reveals no medical justification for mefloquine in this manner or at these doses. On this record there appears to be only three possible reasons for drugging these men: gross malpractice, human experimentation or ‘enhanced interrogation.’ At best it represents monumental incompetence. At worst, it’s torture.”

Dean Olds concluded, “In my professional opinion there is no medical justification for giving a massive dose of mefloquine to an asymptomatic individual. I also do not see the medical benefit of treating a person in Cuba with a prophylactic dose of mefloquine.”

Professor Stephen Soldz, Director of the Center for Research, Evaluation, and Program Development, Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis and President of Psychologists for Social Responsibility, added, “For years there has been an almost complete lack of transparency regarding medical practices and procedures at Guantánamo. The military has failed to provide credible explanations for its procedures. Detainees and their attorneys have been denied access to their own medical records, an egregious ethical violation. All health providers should join the call for Guantánamo to respect fundamental rules regulating medical ethics everywhere.”

The report, Drug Abuse: An Exploration of the Government Use of Mefloquine at Guantánamo, may be found HERE.

TruthOut.org published an article independent of the Seton Hall Law report. Read it HERE.

Seton Hall University School of Law, New Jersey’s only private law school, and a leading law school in the New York metropolitan area, is dedicated to preparing students for the practice of law through excellence in scholarship and teaching, with a strong focus on clinical education. The Center for Policy and Research enables students to gain practical experience while engaging in research and analysis that promotes respect for the rights of individuals worldwide. The students examine primary sources pertaining to national security law and practices of the U.S. government, as well as the reliability of forensic evidence for criminal investigations and prosecution. Seton Hall Law is located in Newark, NJ and offers both day and evening degree programs. For more information, visit http://law.shu.edu.

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3 responses to “SETON HALL LAW REPORT SHOWS U.S. MILITARY ROUTINELY ADMINISTERED CONTROVERSIAL DRUG TO DETAINEES IN GUANTÁNAMO BAY

  1. The authors of the TruthOut.org article jumped the gun a bit without waiting for my reply to their query for help on some facts. Although they accurately quote from my book, “Saving Grace at Guantanamo Bay: A Memoir of a Citizen Warrior,” they quote me out of context with regard to the apparent mental illness outbreak at Gitmo in early 2002, when I served there as the ranking U.S. Army Medical Department officer with the Joint Detainee Operations Group, responsible for oversight of good guy and bad guy care, treatment of detainees, preventive and environmental conditions, and Geneva and Law of Land Warfare compliance. The coincidence of increased suspicion of mental illness, in hind sight, could have easily been attributed to a variety of factors, and not necessarily had anything whatever to do with malaria prophylaxis. For example, many detainees were also on a hunger and/or thirst strike at the time, which causes psychochemical changes in the brain affecting behavior. We also suspected detainees of going through heroine and other addiction withdrawal, which also causes behavior that is abnormal. The other issue, which I also discuss in my book, is that of the psychological effects of confinement, especially with regard to those detainees whose cultures put a high value on freedom of movement, such as those from Bedouin descent. All these and other factors could have easily contributed to abnormal detainee behavior. It seems the authors have been hasty in their conclusions and have excluded evidence that might put their conclusions into question. I am still willing to aid them in their search for the truth, including sharing of medical SOPs, some of which I wrote or had input in writing.

  2. Just to clarify, the Center’s Report is not the Truthout article. These were independent investigations. The Center did not cite to or quote your work, and we made no conclusions as to outcomes from the doses of mefloquine, except as to what we could see in ISN 693’s med file. Even for ISN 693, we do not make definitive conclusions as to causation, but we do see reason for concern since mefloquine was not considered by whoever did the psychological evaluation of ISN 693 in July of 2002.

    If you helped write medical SOPs maybe you can clarify for us – can you explain why the policy of presumptive dosing with mefloquine for asymptomatic individuals was adopted? The Center would happily examine any SOPs you have and supplement our research accordingly. Thank you.

  3. Great report and very well written! I hope it gets the major media attention it needs and deserves. When are the citizens of the U.S. going to stop turning there heads to things that need to be addressed on how we treat detainees.

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