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AMA clarifies medical ethics standards for MDs supervising prisoner interrogations

[JURIST] The American Medical Association [official website] has passed a measure clarifying its ethical guidelines [press release], which prohibit doctors from participating in torture or coercive interrogations. The AMA on Monday reiterated its contention that a doctor's duty is to heal a patient, and cannot take any part in prisoner interrogations. The AMA added that doctor-patient confidentiality still applies to detainees, and that doctors cannot participate in executions nor make a detainee well enough for execution. Dr. Priscilla Ray, chair of the AMA Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs [official website], stated:

Physicians must not conduct, directly participate in, or monitor an interrogation with an intent to intervene, because this undermines the physician's role as healer. Because it is justifiable for physicians to serve in roles that serve the public interest, the AMA policy permits physicians to develop general interrogation strategies that are not coercive, but are humane and respect the rights of individuals.
The refined AMA guidelines, which have confused military doctors in the past, follow allegations that physicians or psychiatrists have helped in interrogations at the US detention centers at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib [JURIST news archives], and serve to remove "ambiguity for physicians who must make decisions about their involvement in interrogations."

The US Department of Defense [official website] issued comprehensive guidelines [JURIST report; PDF text] last week for the treatment of detainees that direct doctors to force-feed detainees who endanger their own lives as a result of a hunger strike, sparking criticism from the AMA, the American Psychiatric Association and the World Medical Association [press releases]. Reuters has more.

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