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Prisoners (Forcible Feeding)

Volume 990: debated on Thursday 7 August 1980

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asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will, for each of the last 10 years, list the penal institutions where forcible feeding has taken place, giving the number of prisoners involved and the length of time for which each prisoner was fed in this way.

Departmental records show that in the period 1 January 1977 to 30 June 1980 two prisoners have been artificially fed, both of them this year. One was artificially fed for five days at Ashford remand centre, the other for one day at Her Majesty's prison, Parkhurst. Information in respect of earlier years is not available.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will list the circumstances under which forcible feeding may take place in a penal institution in England and Wales.

Artificial feeding is considered when it comes to notice that a prisoner is failing to take nourishment to an extent which could endanger his health. The decision on whether or not to resort to artificial feeding in any particular case is a matter for the clinical judgment of the medical officer. Prison standing orders provide that if a prisoner is reported as persistently refusing to accept any form of food, the medical officer should at an early stage examine him, explain the effect of self-starvation upon health, and consider the advisability of admitting him to the prison hospital for observation. If the medical officer is of the opinion that the prisoner's capacity for rational judgment is unimpaired by illness, mental or physical, he should seek confirmation of his opinion from an outside consultant; and if the consultant confirms that opinion, the medical officer should make it clear to the prisoner that he will continue to receive medical supervision and advice and that food will be made available to him but that there is no rule of practice which requires any medical officer to resort to artificial feeding and that the consequent and inevitable deterioration in his health may be allowed to continue without medical intervention unless he specifically requests it.