New findings in an investigation show that torture was administered by Doctors, Psychologists and other health professionals, who under CIA orders, were directed to physically injure and severely demoralize captive inmates under instruction by the CIA.
The Taskforce on Preserving Medical Professionalism in National Security Detention Centres says the health professionals violated the basic tenants of their profession and did as the CIA told, which involved “inhumane and degrading treatment and torture of detainees.” The “first do no harm” of the health profession code directly contradicts their participation in the torture says the Taskforce.
Among the ways in which inmates were tortured included the administering of force-feeding tubes, sleep deprivation cycles and waterboarding. Reports of breaches of patient confidentiality are rampant, when Doctors were ordered to divulge the physical and psychological condition of the prisoner’s with CIA and Department of Defense (DOD) officials. The sharing of patient’s information with CIA and DOD interrogators was used to wear down the detainees even further, inflicting even deeper pain in already afflicted areas to exert pressure on them. There are also reports that doctors and psychologists acted not only as assistants to these interrogations, but in some cases even acted as interrogators themselves.
The CIA told the health professionals that the ‘do no harm’ code did not apply, because the patients they were abusing were not ill.
A two year review by Ethics Abandoned: Medical Professionalism and Detainee Abuse in the War on Terror, with support from the Institute on Medicine as a Profession (IMAP)/Open Society Foundation, lays blame mostly on the DOD and the CIA, who said that doctors involved in the interrogations were known as “safety officers” and not doctors.
“Enhanced interrogation” techniques such as waterboarding or sleep deprivation were sanctioned by the CIA’s office of medical services. Health professionals were not only present during the use of such tactics, but helped administer and improve the efficacy of such methods, the taskforce says.
One member of the taskforce, Dr. Gerald Thomson, a Professor of medicine emeritus at Columbia University said that “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,”
Although matters of national security are at hand and the CIA and DOD have defended such techniques as necessary to combat terror, there is little to no evidence supporting the idea that torture methods produce intelligible information, or at the very least a standard of information more actionable than the information gathered under more humane circumstances.
Critics say that the health professionals should not remain complicit in such inhumane acts against prisoners, and if so directed should refuse such orders and appeal to a higher up in the chain of command.
The Institute on Medicine as a Profession’s president David Rothman says health professionals regardless of circumstance and situation should always put patients first and ‘do no harm’. Rothman also says the IMAP will be calling for publication of the Senate Intelligence committee’s report on CIA interrogation methods. Rothman continued by saying health professionals should be aware that they are allowed to refuse orders that violate their ethical obligations as doctors, which under law should prohibit them from even being involved in such interrogations.