Thursday, April 28, 2011

Physicians Complicit in Gitmo Torture

As more and more facts come out of Guantanamo Bay prison, one of the worst is that physicians caring for the detainees may have been part of torture of the inmates.  Physicians for Human Rights researchers examined medical records, affidavits and third party examinations of nine prisoners who claimed they were tortured at Gitmo.  They found injuries that were highly consistent with torture and abuse in the medical records, yet the physicians failed to document mental and physical conditions that suggested torture.  Instead the doctors talked about regular health issues and never mentioned causes for injuries like bone fractures, contusions, lacerations and nerve damage.

According to the report, the Gitmo physicians turned a blind eye to potential evidence of torture.  One patient experienced nightmares, memory lapses, depression and suicidal thoughts.  A diagnosis of Post-traumatic stress disorder was not made, but instead the physician told him "to relax when guards are being more aggressive," the medical records showed.  In another case, medical personnel allegedly "certified" the detainee's "fitness" to continue being interrogated after several periods of unconsciousness.

After the September 2001 terrorist attacks, the Bush Administration redefined interrogation acts such as sleep deprivation, temperature extremes, forced nudity, prolonged isolation and stress positions as "safe, legal ethical and effective."   Waterboarding became a household word and shocking reports managed to leak out of the prison.

The report states there is "solid, specific evidence of both human rights abuses at Guantanamo Bay and the apparent complicity of medical personnel in the abuse."  The failure of physicians to document the causes of injury or to ask questions constitutes clear ethical breaches by the medical personnel.  The Declaration of Tokyo states, "The physician's fundamental role is to alleviate the distress of his or her fellow human beings, and no motive, whether personal, collective, or political, shall prevail against this higher purpose."

There is no question that physicians are ethically bound to care for patients and actively resist participating in torture or harm of prisoners.  I wrote about this way back in 2007 (check it out) and again in 2008 (check it out)

It is truly sad to be writing about this subject again in 2011.

Iacopino V, et al "Neglect of medical evidence of torture in Guantanamo Bay: a case series" PLoS Med 2011; DOI:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001027.


Anonymous said...

Have these physicians had their medical license's taken away yet?

Steve Heilig said...

Sad indeed. I too, with others, wrote on this in the New England Journal in 2005, calling for state license investigation as well:
- to resounding silence, and the then-editor of our local medical society journal, where I also published on this topic, said we were "attacking" the implicated military health personnel. Sigh.

Dial Doctors said...

This is outrageous. As doctors we take an oath to help people but forget the oath. People must summon the humanity to care for another human being. If you won't do something to stop the torture at least ask someone else to do so.

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people searches said...

As doctors have an oath to help people, but forget the oath. People should call the attention of humanity to another human being.

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Converse Kids said...

Physicians for Human Rights, the researchers examined the medical records, depositions and examinations third of the nine prisoners who claimed they were tortured at Guantanamo.

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