There is much to find deeply troubling in this paper, research and conduct, which make a mockery of any respect for agency.
This article poses a response to one argument supporting the force feeding of political prisoners. This argument assumes that prisoners have moral autonomy and thus cannot be force fed in the early stages of their hunger strike. However, as their fasting progresses, their cognitive competence declines, and they are no longer autonomous. Since they are no longer autonomous, force feeding becomes justified. This article questions the recurrent citation of a paper in empirical support of the claim that hunger strike causes mental disorders or cognitive impairments. The paper, written by Daniel Fessler, partially relies on the Minnesota Starvation Experiment conducted in 1944 to 1945 for scientific support. Using widely accepted criteria for assessing the ethical acceptability of clinical research, we argue that the Minnesota Starvation Experiment had significant scientific shortcomings and is a case of unethical research. From this, we question the appropriateness of citing the Minnesota Starvation Experiment and consequently Fessler’s paper. If Citing Fessler’s paper becomes problematic, this particular argument for the force feeding of prisoners loses much of its strength.
Minnesota starvation experiment, Hunger strike, Research ethics, Competence, Force feeding
Lederman, Z., Voo, T.C. (2021) The Minnesota Starvation Experiment and Force Feeding of Prisoners—Relying on Unethical Research to Justify the Unjustifiable. Bioethical Inquiry. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11673-021-10109-z