Medical Foundation Urges US Doctors to Investigate Torture
British charity the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture has called on the American medical profession to investigate the extent to which US army doctors and other health professionals have been complicit in the torture of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In calling for the American Medical Association, which represents US physicians, to intervene, Dr William Hopkins, consultant psychiatrist at the Medical Foundation said: "Internal military investigations are not enough. The very reputation of the healing profession is at stake."
The move follows allegations by US academic Professor Steven Miles in the British medical journal The Lancet that some medics collaborated with interrogators or abusive guards, failed to protect detainees' human rights, and failed to properly report injuries or deaths caused by beatings. This included falsifying and delaying death certificates.
In addition, at Abu Ghraib prison, a Baghdad torture centre built by Saddam, and now notorious again for torture meted out by US forces, who filmed themselves at work, Professor Miles says the US military medical system "collaborated with designing and implementing psychologically and physically coercive interrogations." Army officials had stated that a physician and a psychiatrist helped "design, approve, and monitor" interrogations there.
In apportioning blame, Professor Miles said physicians, physicians' assistants, nurses, and medics in the US Army are accountable to physician commanders . "Thus, physicians are responsible for the policies of the medical system..." Various international agreements meanwhile, make it clear that every health-care worker has an ethical duty to oppose torture.
Dr Hopkins said: "It now appears that the system of torture at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, in Afghanistan (and probably at Guantánamo Bay) has corrupted a number of American medical professionals working for or with the US military.
"There is evidence of direct medical involvement in torture and indirect planning for the sophisticated psychological and physical techniques of abuse used against prisoners.
"We are aware that the AMA has made strong policy statements against torture. We are also aware that the AMA denounces medical participation in torture in its Code of Ethics. That unequivocal stand needs to be enforced conscientiously.
"Lest the healing profession be accused of doing further harm, it is incumbent on the medical profession and medical establishment in general, and in our view, on the American Medical Association in particular, to take disciplinary action against any of its own who have knowingly violated the basic principles of medical ethics that all of us are pledged to uphold."
The Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture is the only organisation in Britain solely dedicated to the treatment of torture victims. Last year it accepted more than 2,100 new patients at its north London treatment centre, and a regional centre in Greater Manchester, from nearly 100 different countries. Most people it treats are asylum seekers or refugees, but it also helps former British prisoners of the Japanese from World War Two, and British citizens tortured abroad.
Further information from the Medical Foundation Press Office on 0207 697 7792