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December 02, 2010

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Seton Hall Law Report Shows U.S. Military Routinely Administered Controversial Drugs to Detainees in Guantánamo Bay

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

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 at http://law.shu.edu/ProgramsCenters/PublicIntGovServ/policyresearch/upload/drug-abuse-exploration-government-use-mefloquine-gunatanamo.pdf.

TruthOut.org published an article independent of the Seton Hall Law report. Read it here: http://www.truth-out.org/controversial-drug-given-all-guantanamo-detainees-amounted-pharmacologic-waterboarding6558

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.