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Definition[edit | edit source]

A Hunger strike is a form of protest where a person, often with no other recourse, uses the threat of their own death and subsequent publicity as a bargaining tool. They refuse food, but may take water and nutritious fluids, depending on the terms they set. A healthy hunger striker receiving only water will die after four or more weeks.

A death fast is similar, but the striker refuses fluids as well. With no water or food, death occurs at eight to ten days.

While hunger-striking can lead to severe medical conditions and death, the purpose and focus of partisan medical aid is to support the striker’s dignity.

  • The supporter should not focus on convincing the striker to make lifestyle changes and do his strike in the “healthiest” way possible. Nor should the supporter try to convince the striker that “it’s time to back down,” or conversely, “never back down.”
  • The supporter should strive to be consistent and worthy of trust, and to support the striker’s decisions;
  • To understand clearly the striker’s goals, felt needs, and fears;
  • To listen to the striker as they work through their conflicts, decisions, and fears;
  • To unfailingly advocate for the striker, always describing their demands alongside their health condition;
  • To work to build medical, legal, and public support for the striker.

Recommendations[edit | edit source]

Avoiding coffee and cigarettes (which are not food) during the strike may do more than any other self-care measure to prevent very serious, long-term health conditions. However, strikers will almost never limit their intake, and it is absolutely not a support person's job to convince them. These drugs are appetite suppressant and mood elevating. Hunger strikers are not trying to stay healthy. The point of the tactic is to get as sick and close to death as possible as quick and painlessly as possible, and die or win as quick as possible.

Force the prison to allow care by a sympathetic doctor[edit | edit source]

A street medic's most important role is to force the prison to allow a sympathetic Doctor not in the employ of the prison to check up on the prisoner as part of a campaign to bring pressure on the prison. Good medical records can provide a lot of pressure in court.

Being present and doing publicity[edit | edit source]

A street medic's second most important role is dual:

  • To be consistent, emotionally present, provide anticipatory guidance, help the hunger striker maintain morale, and to know she or he is not forgotten.
  • To publicize the situation widely, so the hunger striker will not be forgotten. If the hunger striker's sympathetic doctor is too involved in publicity, and the campaign is not strong enough, the doctor may be denied access to the striker. There must be a campaign, not just one doctor.

Preventing retaliation[edit | edit source]

A street medic's third most important role is to maintain pressure on the correctional institution after the strike has ended, and ensure that the correctional facility does not retaliate. Specifically, to ensure that staff follow doctor’s orders about food. Hunger strikers are most likely to die when they resume eating after a long fast. Prison guards are often sadistic to just-off-strike prisoners, often by altering their food in ways that can be deadly.

Other considerations[edit | edit source]

It is illegal (cruel and unusual / torture) and unethical to force-feed an A+O hunger striker. This may include IV feeding.

Long-term (after)care for chronic health conditions acquired during the strike: bowel conditions, neurological/muscular conditions, heart conditions, liver and kidney conditions, infections. Two years ago, a British protester ended his hunger strike with 10 days in the ICU.

Most prisons do not allow prisoners to place calls to cell-phones.
If calls to your landline are being restricted, call and harass Sprint to get restrictions taken off your phone. They are the service provider for most US prisons.

See Hunger strike for health-related reccomendations.

Sources for research[edit | edit source]

Simon Chapman 44 days into hungerstrike in prison.

Well-documented cases: for partisan medical support[edit | edit source]

Google "Simon Chapman," Thessaloniki, "Saloniki 5." Five men waged a successful long hunger strike following arrest at anti-globalization protest and detention. Statements from their doctors:

Google "1981 Irish hunger strike"

  • Diary of Bobby Sands (first seventeen days of this Irishman’s hunger strike – he died after sixty-six days):

What to do: for partisan medical support[edit | edit source]

World Medical Association’s 1991/92 Declaration on Hunger Strikers (Declaration of Malta) is a standard of behavior and protocol for doctors treating hunger strikers.

Very basic health and safety overview from Anarchy in Action

Case study and answer about force-feeding in UK/international hunger strikes

People to help you: for partisan medical support[edit | edit source]

Dan Cahill (OH) went on hunger strike in prison twice (the second time for sixty days; which I think is the longest recorded in the US), and on death fast once for six days.

Famous (NYC) has lots of experience both as a care provider and as a striker, and when the Chinese Staff and Worker's Association did a hunger strike in NYC, she gave a talk to them, provided them with written info, etc. Additionally, some of that written info may have been translated, since the strikers spoke eight different languages.

Annie (NJ) is a NP who has taken care of just about any radical political injury imaginable over her 40 years as a StreetMedic.

Notes: My two hunger strikes and one death fast were sussesful in various ways. It helped to focus outside support on injustices within the prison system, brought newsmedia attention to our issues and ultimately resulted in legislation. It is important for the individual to contact outside supporters prior to the begining of the strike or fast. This way supporters can prepare before it actually starts. I believe everyone is affected differently. For me I began to become week around 45 or 50 days. Motion sickness and vomiting began on the 58th day. On day 60 I experienced convulsions, and was visited by two state representatives who promised to investigate my complaints. During the hunger strikes I drank instant coffee and smoked cigarettes. The weight of the striker depends determines how long an individual can last. Guards always tampered with my food when I came off of a hunger strike or fast. It's their form of punishment for bringing attention to their corruption and brutality. I think the information on this subject on this website is great and right on point. Also, outside supporters should never believe what prison staff say about strikers. I want to thank those who supported me and those responsible for this website. In the struggle, Dan Cahill[edit | edit source]

This material is intended as a training supplement. Reading this material is no substitute for first aid/medical training with a qualified trainer. We encourage you to pursue ongoing education, reviewing and upgrading your skills-- for the safety of both yourself and anyone you treat.

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