Report: Docs violated ethics at US detention centers

Report: Docs violated ethics at US detention centers
© Thinkstock

A new report says the U.S. military and intelligence agencies directed doctors and psychologists to violate medical ethics by participating in the torture of detainees at U.S. detention centers after 9/11.

The report says military and intelligence agency doctors were involved in “designing, participating in, and enabling torture and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment,” which conflicted with national and international standards and laws.

The report issued Monday by the Institute on Medicine as a Profession and the Open Society Foundations says that the Pentagon has addressed some of the practices detailed in the report, but that others — such as the force-feeding of hunger-striking detainees at Guantánamo Bay — have continued.

The 20-person task force that compiled the findings, based on a two-year review of public records, called for a committee to review medical ethics concerns at Guantánamo.

“It’s clear that in the name of national security the military trumped that [medical] covenant, and physicians were transformed into agents of the military and performed acts that were contrary to medical ethics and practice,” said Gerald Thomson, a member of the task force and professor of medicine emeritus at Columbia University.

The Pentagon rejected the findings in the report, saying that doctors at Guantánamo provide “comprehensive and humane medical care.”

“The allegations made in the report are not new. They have been subject to numerous investigations over the years, and those investigations — which had access to more information than the authors of this report — have never substantiated these claims,” Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale said in a statement.

Breasseale said there are 14 Guantánamo detainees currently being force-fed. He said the procedure is medically sound and in line with well-established U.S. law.

The report looks at doctors’ roles at Guantánamo and at other U.S. detention facilities across the globe since Sept. 11, 2001.

The report says that doctors were consulted on detainees’ confinement conditions in order to increase disorientation and anxiety, and that medical information was improperly used in interrogations.

The report’s authors allege that the Pentagon excused medical violations by inappropriately labeling doctors involved in interrogations as  “safety officers.”

The CIA’s Office of Medical Services played a critical role in reviewing and approving interrogation techniques, including waterboarding, they say.

The report also disagrees with the Pentagon’s characterization of force-feeding, saying that force-feeding detainees on hunger strikes is barred by the World Medical Association and the American Medical Association.