How Doctors Became Torturers

A new report on CIA and Pentagon abuse of prisoners cites damning evidence that medical professionals were fully complicit in the war crimes committed under Bush and Cheney. “Do harm” was their effective ethical mantra – do harm to get patients to say something to stop the pain. Newspeak was, as often under Cheney, a facilitator:

The two-year review by the 19-member taskforce, Ethics Abandoned: Medical Professionalism and Detainee Abuse in the War on Terror [PDF], supported by the Institute on Medicine as a Profession (IMAP) and the Open Society Foundations, says that the DoD termed those involved in interrogation “safety officers” rather than doctors.

Doctors and nurses were required to participate in the force-feeding of prisoners on hunger strike, against the rules of the World Medical Association and the American Medical Association. Doctors and psychologists working for the DoD were required to breach patient confidentiality and share what they knew of the prisoner’s physical and psychological condition with interrogators and were used as interrogators themselves. They also failed to comply with recommendations from the army surgeon general on reporting abuse of detainees.

The CIA’s office of medical services played a critical role in advising the justice department that “enhanced interrogation” methods, such as extended sleep deprivation and waterboarding, which are recognised as forms of torture, were medically acceptable. CIA medical personnel were present when waterboarding was taking place, the taskforce says.

What on earth would a real doctor do when faced with a waterboarding than do all in her power to stop it? And why are those doctors complicit in these war crimes and betrayal of their core ethics still allowed to practice medicine? Why are they not in jail, along with the war criminals?