The doctor’s ethical directive, “first do no harm,” would seem to not-so-subtly indicate that medical professionals not engage in torture … but an independent task force finds that the CIA and the Pentagon asked doctors and psychologists working at US detention facilities (including Guantanamo Bay) to do just that. The two-year investigation by the Task force on Preserving Medical Professionalism in National Security Detention Centers found that after the September 11 attacks, medical professionals working for the US military and intelligence services were basically told the ethical mandate did not apply since they weren’t actually treating sick patients. The Defense Department went so far as to refer to them as “safety officers,” not doctors, the Guardian reports.
The health professionals “designed and participated in cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment and torture of detainees,” the task force report says. That includes:
Helping to force-feed prisoners on hunger strike, which the World Medical Association and American Medical Association rules prohibit.
Breaching confidentiality to give interrogators information about a prisoner’s physical or psychological state, acting as interrogators.
Devising that “enhanced interrogation” techniques, including sleep deprivation and water boarding were medically acceptable, and sometimes being present while a prisoner was water boarded.
The “safety officers” also did not comply with the army surgeon general’s recommendations for reporting detainee abuse, the report states. It also says these unethical practices continue, despite the fact that the CIA and the Defense Department say they have taken steps to address prisoner treatment. The panel looked at public information including Defense Department and CIA documents, congressional reports, and other investigations to come up with its findings, but members now want the White House to launch its own investigation in order to get access to classified documents, the National Journal reports.
Is this the example of behavior the United States wants the rest of the world to follow? And is it any wonder so much of the rest of the world thinks it’s ok to violate human rights when the United States seems to be leading so solidly on all this?
And what happens to any standards of ethical behavior anywhere when they are being violated at the highes levels of power and influence?
What can ordinary people do to halt the downward spiral of inhumanity in their own little corner of the world?
Can we all please try to remember to set a personal example that when emulated, will make a positive difference in just that one place?
When all those small individual places are added up, we might end up with a better world. Who is up to it?
And If there’s a more effective way to a humane world than this, what might it be?
The National Journal