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Physicians at Guantanamo Violate Medical Ethics: Study

The use of physicians at the U.S. prison camp in Guantanamo Bay has forced medical professionals to violate their ethics codes, according to findings published Thursday in the UK journal Lancet.

"Razor wire rises to the sky at the Camp 5 maximum security facility on the US Naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The use of physicians at the US prison camp in Guantanamo Bay has forced medical professionals to violate their ethics codes, according to findings published Thursday in the UK journal Lancet."

The roles that medical professionals have been called on to play at the controversial detention facility "has damaged the integrity of the physicians working for the military and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)," the study said.

"These physicians had a conflict of loyalty because of their ethical obligations to their imprisoned patients and the Bush administration's demands to further the goals and interests of military commanders and intelligence officials."

The paper was authored by Leonard Rubenstein, executive director of Physicians for Human Rights, and George Annas, a professor at Boston University and an expert on bioethics.

Basing their arguments on a Pentagon report on procedures at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the authors argue military directives allowing force-feeding of detainees and the use of behavioral scientists in interrogations has led medical professionals at the facility to violate ethics rules.

Doctors are closely involved with the use of force-feeding at Guantanamo, in which hunger strikers are strapped into "restraint chairs," while behavioral scientists have supervised and advised on interrogations.

"These roles... violate the essential ethical principles of the health professions," Rubenstein and Annas wrote.

The paper says "little comfort" can be derived from the Pentagon's insistence that behavioral scientists at Guantanamo comply with "governing policies and procedures."

"As with force-feeding, the policies are flawed because they invite and even require unethical behavior."

The authors recommend the Pentagon abandon the use of force-feeding and the involvement of behavioral scientists in interrogations. They also call for "independent medical reviews" of the physical and mental health of detainees and a commission inquiry into U.S. detention policy and the role of physicians.

"The rule in the U.S. military should be that military physicians never have to compromise medical ethics to serve their country," the study said.

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