The detention center for terrorism suspects at the Guantanamo Naval Base in Cuba is facing an issue they hadn’t previously considered: Inmates are aging, and some will soon need end-of-life and palliative care, according to a New York Times report.
The issue is raising a host of questions in the Pentagon, such as how much care should prisoners receive, who should provide it and how, as well as the amount of funds Congress may (or may not) allocate for these services.
President George W. Bush established the military prison in 2002 in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Approximately 780 individuals have passed through the detention center, with at least 40 still remaining. President Barack Obama made an effort to close the prison during his first term.
The Trump administration has told its military commanders to anticipate keeping the prison operating until at least 2043. At that point, many of the current inmates would be in their seventies or eighties, with some coming close to 100-years-old, should they survive that long.
“Nobody has a dementia diagnosis yet, but the first hip and knee replacements are on the horizon. So are wheelchair ramps, sleep apnea breathing masks, grab bars on cell walls and, perhaps, dialysis. Hospice care is on the agenda,” the Times article said. “The Pentagon is now planning for terrorism suspects still held in the facility to grow old and die at Guantánamo Bay.”
According to the Times, the base is mulling the establishment of a communal nursing home-type facility on the base in which hospice care could be provided. Current detainees are experiencing symptoms can diseases associated with middle age, including high blood pressure and cholesterol, joint pain, diabetes and sleep apnea.
The base’s former commander, Rear Admiral John C. Ring, told the times that he had sent a team to interface with the U.S. Bureau of Prisons to learn how the federal correction system handles hospice and palliative care. The U.S. military currently has no geriatric or palliative care physicians.
“Unless America’s policy changes, at some point we’ll be doing some sort of end of life care here,” Ring told New York Times reporters.