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Doctor: He binged and prepared mentally

Published: 
Sunday, October 12, 2014

It has been 26 days since activist Dr Wayne Kublalsingh began his second hunger strike in less than a year. Kublalsingh has been the face of the Highway Re-Route Movement’s fight to have the Mon Desir to Point Fortin leg of the highway stopped. On Thursday—day 23 of the hunger strike—Kublalsingh’s doctor, Dr Asante Van West-Charles-Le Blanc opted to withdraw from caring for him, saying that Kublalsingh had reached a critical stage. 

According to the doctor’s statement, “A long established common law principle upholds the right to individual self-­determination, including the choice to refuse treatment. The decision not to intervene and to allow a person to die is extremely difficult for a physician to make. From an ethical perspective, the practitioner caring for a hunger striker confronts the tension between on the one hand, the imperative to preserve life and, on the other, respect for the autonomy of the individual.   

“Today is day 22 going into 23 of the hunger strike of Dr Wayne Kublalsingh. Based on the laws of physiology, and on studies of hunger strikers, there is now organ damage including to the nervous system. Based on my observations, I have strongly and repeatedly advised Dr Kublalsingh to cease this hunger strike before it is too late and further irreparable damage is done to his organs. The ultimate result of a hunger strike of this nature is death and to my mind, this is highly probable and a rapidly approaching occurrence.”

In a phone interview with the Sunday Guardian on the effects of a hunger strike on the human body, Le Blanc said the body first goes into compensation mode. She said there were different stages one goes through when on a hunger strike. 

The body requires nutrients for its basic functioning. When it is unable to receive those nutrients it begins to breakdown carbohydrates first, then fats, and lastly protein (essential to brain functioning.) The body usually has stores of each, but protein is usually the last to go. While each stage occurs, Le Blanc said, the likelihood of organ damage increases. Le Blanc said the vital organs such as heart, brain among others would be the last to go. 

There is also, she said, tissue and kidney damage (which affects the water and salt balance in the body). Eventually, the body would de-compensate. When this occurs, Le Blanc said, death is likely. While an individual’s body reacts differently to a hunger strike, this general process of the body’s breakdown usually occurs. 

Speaking specifically to Kublalsingh, Le Blanc said, when asked how badly his body would be affected given the two hunger strikes in less than a year, his body took “a beating with the first hunger strike.” She did not divulge his medical history. 

Le Blanc said Kublalsingh was more prepared for this hunger strike, both mentally and physically. She said Kublalsingh “binged” for this strike, and a lot of mental work had been done in preparation for the strike. “There is a much stronger mental picture.” However, she said, logic dictates that a hunger strike would have caused damage. 

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