The report of the Taskforce on Preserving Medical Professionalism in National Security Detention Centers has said that after 9/11, health professionals working with the military and intelligence services "designed and participated in cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment and torture of detainees", The Guardian reported Monday.
Medical professionals were told that their ethical mantra "first do no harm" did not apply because they were not treating people who were ill. The report lays blame primarily on the Department of Defense (DoD) and the CIA. The two-year review by the 19-member taskforce, 'Ethics Abandoned: Medical Professionalism and Detainee Abuse in the War on Terror', says that the DoD termed those involved in interrogation "safety officers", not doctors.
It has been revealed how 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 were required to breach patient confidentiality and share what they knew of the prisoner's physical and psychological condition with interrogators.
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, recognised as forms of torture, were medically acceptable. Though the DoD has taken steps to address concerns over practices at Guantánamo Bay, and the CIA has said it no longer has suspects in detention, it has been found that these "changed roles for health professionals and anaemic ethical standards" remain.
Doctors, the report says, are still required to give interrogators access to medical and psychological information about detainees which they can use to exert pressure on them. Detainees are not permitted to receive treatment for the distress caused by their torture.
"Putting on a uniform does not and should not abrogate the fundamental principles of medical professionalism," said Institute on Medicine as a Profession president David Rothman. "'Do no harm' and 'put patient interest first' must apply to all physicians regardless of where they practice." The taskforce wants a full investigation into the involvement of the medical profession in detention centres, and has called for publication of the Senate intelligence committee's inquiry into CIA practices.
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