US doctors designed and participated in torture of detainees, rules Task Force

29th Nov 2013

US doctors designed and participated in torture of detainees, rules Task Force


[Musician and actor Yasiin Bey, voluntarily underwent the force-feeding procedure administered by American doctors to prisoners on hunger strike while they are held in Guantanamo Bay]


By Elham Asaad Buaras


Doctors working for US military and intelligence agencies broke international ethics codes and were involved in the torture of detainees in US custody, according to findings by Task Force study released earlier this month.

The two-year study by a multidisciplinary Task Force on Preserving Medical Professionalism in National Security Detention Centres concludes that since September 11, 2001, the US Department of Defense and CIA demanded that US military doctors and psychologists collaborate in intelligence gathering and security practices in a way that violated medical standards, ethical principles and the Hippocratic Oath to do no harm.

According to the study supported by the Institute on Medicine as a Profession (IMAP) and the Open Society Foundations, these interventions included: involvement in abusive interrogation; consulting on conditions of confinement to increase the disorientation and anxiety of detainees; using medical information for interrogation purposes; and force-feeding of hunger strikers.

The report, Ethics Abandoned: Medical Professionalism and Detainee Abuse in the War on Terror highlighted activities including, “designing, participating in, and enabling torture and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment.”

Task Force member and Professor of Medicine Emeritus at ColumbiaUniversity, Dr Gerald Thomson, said, “The American public has a right to know that the covenant with its physicians to follow professional ethical expectations is firm regardless of where they serve. It’s clear that in the name of national security the military trumped that covenant, and physicians were transformed into agents of the military and performed acts that were contrary to medical ethics and practice. We have a responsibility to make sure this never happens again.”

British Medical Association Director of Professional Activities, Vivienne Nathanson, said: “Doctors see the results of abuse and treat its survivors.”

“We must continue to press the twin points that torture and similar abuse is always illegal, and that doctors must not become involved even in legal interrogations as this is an abuse of their medical knowledge. These doctors have betrayed their profession, their patients and their society.”

IMAP President, David Rothman, said: “Putting on a uniform does not and should not abrogate the fundamental principles of medical professionalism.”


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