Doctors and psychologists working in U.S. military detention centers were directed to violate medical ethics and standards by participating in the mistreatment of prisoners, according to a new report.
A 19-member independent task force of military, ethics, medical, public health, and legal experts spent two years reviewing records for their report, titled Ethics Abandoned: Medical Professionalism and Detainee Abuse in the War on Terror.
The report states that DoD and CIA policies “institutionalized a variety of interventions by military and intelligence agency doctors and psychologists that breach ethical standards to promote well-being and avoid harm.”
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 Task Force on Preserving Medical Professionalism in National Security Detention Centers concluded that since September 11, 2001, the “Department of Defense (DoD) and CIA improperly demanded that U.S. military and intelligence agency health professionals collaborate in intelligence gathering and security practices in a way that inflicted severe harm on detainees in U.S. custody.”
These practices included “designing, participating in, and enabling torture and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment” of detainees.
The task force also found that DoD policies and practices interfered with health professionals’ ability to provide detainees with appropriate medical care and to “report abuses against detainees under recognized international standards.” The report details how agencies adopted rules for military health personnel that significantly deviate from typical ethical standards.
Task Force member Dr. Gerald Thomson, Professor of Medicine Emeritus at Columbia University, 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.”
According to the Task Force, the DoD specifically:
• Excused violations of ethical standards by inappropriately characterizing health professionals engaged in interrogation as “safety officers,” masking one of their key functions;
• Implemented rules that permitted medical and psychological information obtained by health professionals to be used in interrogations;
• Required physicians and nurses to forgo their independent medical judgment and counseling roles, as well as to force-feed competent detainees engaged in hunger strikes even though this is forbidden by the World Medical Association and the American Medical Association;
• Improperly designated licensed health professionals to use their professional skills to interrogate detainees as military combatants, a status incompatible with licensing; and
• Failed to uphold recommendations by the Army Surgeon General to adopt international standards for medical reporting of abuse against detainees. (source)
The task force also found that the CIA’s Office of Medical Services reviewed and approved forms of torture and told the Department of Justice that “enhanced interrogation” techniques, including waterboarding and extended sleep deprivation, were medically acceptable.
The DoD has been taking steps to improve the treatment of detainees, but the task force said the agency “continues to follow policies that undermine standards of professional conduct” for interrogation, hunger strikes, and reporting abuse.
These policies include requiring medical professionals to participate in the force-feeding of detainees and the use of bodily restraints for up to two hours twice a day, enabling interrogators access to medical and psychological information about detainees for exploitation by interrogators, and allowing medical care for detainees to “suffer from the inability or failure of clinicians to address causes of detainee distress from torture.”
Recommendations for a full investigation and overhaul of medical practices in military detention centers are included in the task force’s report.
David Rothman, president of the Institute on Medicine as a Profession, said:
“Putting on a uniform does not and should not abrogate the fundamental principles of medical professionalism. ‘Do no harm’ and ‘put patient interest first’ must apply to all physicians regardless of where they practice.”
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Contributed by Lily Dane of The Daily Sheeple.
Lily Dane is a staff writer for The Daily Sheeple. Her goal is to help people to “Wake the Flock Up!”