Doctors Tortured Detainees in the War on Terror

Human Rights

Health professionals in the military and the Central Intelligence Agency directly participated in cruel and inhuman treatment and the torture of detainees. An independent panel supported by the Open Society Foundation and the Institute on Medicine as a Profession made the findings in a comprehensive report titled, Ethics Abandoned: Medical Professionalism and Detainee Abuse in the War on Terror.

The report found that health professionals were directed to take part in the torture of detainees after the September 11, 2001 attacks.  The complicity of medical professionals in torture runs counter to accepted ethical principles and medical standards, the panel stated.

The CIA tortured prisoners captured on the battlefields of the war on terror in “black sites,” while the military tortured those at Guantanamo Bay. The report states that medical professionals working for the CIA and military partook in practices that included “designing, participating in, and enabling torture and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment.”

“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,” said Dr. Gerald Thomson, a Professor of Medicine Emeritus at Columbia University and a member of the task force, in a statement. It’s clear that in the name of national security the military trumped that covenant, and physicians were transformed into agents of the military and performed acts that were contrary to medical ethics and practice. We have a responsibility to make sure this never happens again.”

Specifically, doctors have been used in abusive interrogations and required professionals to forgo independent judgement on the treatment of detainees.

The majority of the abuses documented were carried out under the Bush administration. But while reforms under the Obama administration have been implemented, they don’t go far enough, the panel said. The report harshly criticizes the practice of force-feeding hunger strikers at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp.

“Abuse of detainees, and health professional participation in this practice, is not behind us as a country,” said John Hopkins University’s Leonard Rubenstein. “Force-feeding by physicians in violation of ethical standards is illustrative of a much broader legacy in which medical professionalism has been undermined.”

Understand the importance of honest news ?

So do we.

The past year has been the most arduous of our lives. The Covid-19 pandemic continues to be catastrophic not only to our health - mental and physical - but also to the stability of millions of people. For all of us independent news organizations, it’s no exception.

We’ve covered everything thrown at us this past year and will continue to do so with your support. We’ve always understood the importance of calling out corruption, regardless of political affiliation.

We need your support in this difficult time. Every reader contribution, no matter the amount, makes a difference in allowing our newsroom to bring you the stories that matter, at a time when being informed is more important than ever. Invest with us.

Make a one-time contribution to Alternet All Access, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you.

Click to donate by check.

DonateDonate by credit card
Donate by Paypal
{{ }}
@2022 - AlterNet Media Inc. All Rights Reserved. - "Poynter" fonts provided by