There’s also a Pakistani prisoner, Saifullah Paracha, with a heart condition serious enough that the government brought a surgical team and a mobile cardiac lab to the U.S. base in Cuba to treat him, at a cost of $400,000. He ultimately refused the treatment because he didn’t trust military medical personnel.
In addition, two prisoners have died from natural causes — one from a heart attack, the other from cancer. And several detainees have raised medical complaints related to their participation in a long-running hunger strike, which had dropped to 17 prisoners as of Monday from a peak of 106 in July.
“There are a whole slew of people with a whole slew of serious health problems,” said Cori Crider, a lawyer for the British human rights group Reprieve who has been meeting with Guantanamo prisoners for years.
U.S. officials say Guantanamo prisoners get excellent medical care, saying proudly that it’s equivalent to what troops receive. There are more than 100 doctors, nurses and other professionals treating “a constellation” of illnesses, said Navy Capt. Daryl Daniels, a physician and the chief medical officer for the detention center. He says no one is in critical condition at the moment.
“They are an aging population and they are starting to show some signs of being an older group of people,” Daniels said.
In August, lawyers for El-Sawah filed an emergency motion with a federal court in Washington asking a judge to order the military to provide what it calls “adequate” medical care, including additional tests for possible heart disease and a device to help him breathe because of a condition they say is preventing his brain from receiving enough oxygen.
The government insists he is getting good care at Guantanamo and just needs to exercise more and eat less. “While (El-Sawah) is currently in poor health, his life is not in imminent danger,” lawyers for the Justice Department wrote in response.