Report: US medical professionals participated in detainee torture

Report: US medical professionals participated in detainee torture

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[JURIST] Doctors and psychologists working in US military detention centers helped to design methods of torture for terrorism suspects, according to an independent report supported by the Institute on Medicine as a Profession and the Open Society Foundations [advocacy websites] released [press release] on Monday. The report, entitled “Ethics Abandoned: Medical Professionalism and Detainee Abuse in the War on Terror,” examines various charges that the Department of Defense (DOD) and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) [official websites] “improperly demanded that US military and intelligence agency health professionals collaborate in intelligence gathering and security practices in a way that inflicted severe harm on detainees in US custody.” Such methods, the report asserts, forced doctors to violate ethical and medical principles in order to inflict “torture and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment” on detainees. While acknowledging that some steps toward improvement have been taken by the DOD in recent years, the report urges that further changes need to be made so that medical professionals are not made to undermine their own ethical standards.

This report is the latest incident in a long string of medical condemnations of enhanced interrogation techniques [JURIST news archive]. Medical personnel present as part of the Bush administration’s enhanced interrogations at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] collected and analyzed data in order to develop more effective interrogation procedures [JURIST report], according to a 2010 report by the advocacy group Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) [advocacy website]. In April 2009 a confidential International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) [official website] report [text, PDF] was leaked, alleging that medical professionals violated codes of medical ethics [JURIST report] by participating in and assisting in ill-treatment of Guantanamo Bay detainees. In September 2007 doctors from 16 countries wrote a letter [JURIST report] condemning the US military for its treatment of detainees, particularly the policy of force-feeding to counteract hunger strikes. A month earlier, a commentary [text] published in the Journal of the American Medical Association [journal website] asserted that force-feeding was a violation of medical ethics [JURIST report].

Editor’s Note: This story was edited to clarify that the 2009 ICRC report was intended to remain confidential and was leaked by unknown persons.