January 24, 2018
Two clinicians who examined Assange renew calls for him to be given safe passage to hospital
Julian Assanges health in dangerous condition, say doctors
Julian Assange’s long stay in the Ecuadorian embassy in London is having a “dangerous” impact on his physical and mental health, according to clinicians who carried out the most recent assessments of him.
The pair renewed calls for the WikiLeaks publisher to be granted safe passage to a London hospital.
Sondra Crosby, a doctor and associate professor at the Boston University’s school of medicine and public health, and Brock Chisholm, a London-based consultant clinical psychologist, examined Assange for 20 hours over three days in October.
In an article for the Guardian, they wrote: “While the results of the evaluation are protected by doctor-patient confidentiality, it is our professional opinion that his continued confinement is dangerous physically and mentally to him and a clear infringement of his human right to healthcare.”
Although the two did not go into details, Assange’s health appears to be deteriorating significantly after more than five years holed up in the embassy.
The doctors’ assessment offers the first clues about Assange’s condition since WikiLeaks in 2016 published documents setting out the impact of life in the confines of the embassy on his mental and physical health.
Since he sought refuge in the embassy in June 2012, following an extradition request from Sweden over allegations of sexual assault, there have been various reports that he has a serious shoulder issue that requires an MRI scan, which would be near impossible to organise inside the embassy. He is also said to have a lung problem.
The UK government refused an earlier request to allow Assange safe passage for hospital treatment. A fall-back position would be to allow doctors with the necessary medical equipment into the embassy, but the size of the equipment needed appears to rule out this option.
Supporters of Assange have expressed fears that if he leaves the embassy, police will arrest him for jumping bail and, once in custody, he will face the prospect of extradition to the US, where he could face a lengthy jail sentence over the publication of classified material including the Iraq war logs and state department cables, both reported on by the Guardian.
The article was co-written by Crosby, Chisholm and Sean Love, a doctor in training at a Boston hospital. Love, on a trip to London last May, visited Assange. Afterwards, he proposed a medical evaluation be carried out.
Crosby, who has done extensive work on human rights and refugees, and Chisholm, who specialises in trauma cases, wrote in the article: “It is unconscionable that Mr Assange is in the position of having to decide between avoiding arrest and potentially suffering the health consequences, including death, and the need to call an ambulance if a life-threatening crisis such as a heart attack were to occur.
“Further, our assessment reveals that he has had no access to sunlight, appropriate ventilation or outside space for over five and a half years. This has taken a considerable physical as well as psychological toll.”
They urged the British Medical Association and colleagues in the UK to demand safe access to medical care for Assange.
Medical conditions are a matter of privacy but a representative of Assange said he had approved Crosby, Chisholm and Love writing the article.
The Ecuadorian embassy, which has granted citizenship to Assange, is in negotiations with the UK government in an attempt to end the stand-off.
The US attorney general, Jeff Sessions, said last year that arresting Assange was a priority for the US. The FBI is investigating WikiLeaks.
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