THE BLOG
04/16/2007 02:51 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

One Pill Fits All


I received a letter this week from Mr. Al-Ghizzawi (my client at Guantánamo). If you have not been keeping up, Mr. Al-Ghizzawi is a prisoner at the base who is dying of hepatitis B, and he is not being treated. Seems our government does not think Mr. Al-Ghizzawi wants to be treated... despite my constant pleas on Mr. Al-Ghizzawi's behalf to the various courts. (The irony of our military force-feeding the hunger strikers but refusing to treat a dying prisoner is not lost on Mr. Al-Ghizzawi.) In this most recent letter Mr. Al-Ghizzawi had good news for me, in a Guantánamo sort of way. Mr. Al-Ghizzawi told me that he was finally able to see a doctor. You see Mr. Al-Ghizzawi has been trying to see a doctor for more than seven months, ever since I informed him of the government's admission that he has hepatitis B (and the fact that the government has known about his condition since shortly after he arrived at the base, but never bothered to tell him or treat him).

In his letter Mr. Al-Ghizzawi expressed initial relief that he finally had an appointment to see a doctor but then went on to describe his eventual disgust with the actual visit. It seems that when Mr. Al-Ghizzawi was taken in for his appointment the doctor only wanted to look at his leg. (Yes, his fucking leg.) Anyway, Mr. Al-Ghizzawi tried to tell the doctor that although he is having trouble with one of his legs.... his bigger problem is his liver: a problem that will not be solved until they start treating his hepatitis B.

The doctor continued examining Mr. Al-Ghizzawi's leg while Mr. Al-Ghizzawi attempted to give details about the symptoms that are killing him: the constant and severe pain in the area of his liver that goes thru his body to his back, the jaundice, the vomiting, ... and the other symptoms... but this quack was only interested in looking at Mr. Al-Ghizzawi's leg. When the examination was over (at least as far as the doctor was concerned) the doctor told Mr. Al-Ghizzawi that he was going to give him some medicine for his leg. Mr. Al-Ghizzawi struggled to explain to the doctor that he did not need medicine for his leg, that what he needed was to be treated for the hepatitis that was threatening his life. But the doctor was not interested in his hepatitis except to tell Mr. Al-Ghizzawi not to worry "this medicine will work for both... It works for everything". So what was this miracle drug that the doctor prescribed for Mr. Al-Ghizzawi? A pain pill.

Mr. Al-Ghizzawi is certain that he will die in Guantánamo from his worsening condition and the medical neglect. He ended his letter to me with this plea:

"Finally, I would like to ask from you the following: to request from the American Government to ship my body to Afghanistan, to my wife, so that I will be near her and my daughter and be buried there. If that was not possible, ask them to ship my body to my family in Libya. The important thing is that I won't be buried under any circumstance in Cuba."

I hope I do not have to make this request on Mr. Al-Ghizzawi's behalf not only because this innocent man should not die alone in that hell hole but also because every request I have made on behalf of this man, either before the courts or directly to the military, has been met with scorn and ridicule. The same kind of scorn and ridicule that allowed this doctor to tell Mr. Al-Ghizzawi that there is one pill that treats everything... from leg ailments to hepatitis.

Want to help us close Guantánamo? Join us May 1st as the gitmo lawyers converge on Congress.

See my blog for further details. http://gtmoblog.blogspot.com/