Doctor: Khadr’s Medical Condition Is ‘Urgent’
GUANTANAMO BAY — Stephen Xenakis, a retired brigadier general in the Army medical corps and a psychiatrist as well as a general practitioner, didn’t have time to conduct a thorough examination of Omar Khadr, who complained this morning of pain in his eye. But Xenakis did have the chance to look at Khadr — who has conjunctivitis aggravated by the shrapnel that remains in his eyes, leading him to cry in court this afternoon, as well as elevated blood pressure — and he called Khadr’s condition “urgent.”
“If Omar Khadr were a young man who came into an emergency room, and I’m speaking here as a general physician,” Xenakis told reporters, with “his history of having had the head wounds that he did, the shrapnel that is still in his eyes, the opacity — that is, clouding of the lens, the emergency surgery that he had on his left eye, he had some procedures as well on the right eye that still retains shrapnel, and he complains of this headache — mostly also with pressure of nausea — then this is a condition that becomes urgent.” He recommended Khadr’s case “be referred to as quickly as possible to an ophthalmologist, to be evaluated to see if these symptoms are attributable and treated as acute conjunctivitis or something more serious.”
Several of us asked Xenakis if that indicated Khadr has been given insufficient medical care. He backed off that characterization, and said that he considered the severity of Khadr’s treatment consistent with discovering the condition last night, when Khadr apparently began complaining of pain. Asked about the blacked-out ski goggles Khadr was forced to wear to be transported from his cell to court, Xenakis added, “The medical opinion I was prepared to render is that the goggles aggravated his medical condition.”
I asked if Xenakis would recommend the Joint Task Force responsible for the Guantanamo Bay detention facility not place the goggles on Khadr tomorrow if Khadr appears in court. “Personally, if I was making a medical decision, because the goggles aggravate his condition, I would probably recommend they not be used,” Xenakis said.
Barry Coburn, Khadr’s lawyer, said he didn’t want the hearing delayed, as it has taken years for Khadr to receive any form of justice, and this most hearing has been delayed several times already. But he said “there’s a humanitarian issue in ensuring the pain is treated,” and if he’s not treated, “that level of pain, by its very nature, impairs his ability to participate in his defense. That’s just a matter of basic fairness.”