New evidence on complicity of US doctors, psychologists and other health workers

November 25, 2013


US physicians, psychologists, and other health professionals aided in the harsh interrogation and torture of prisoners held in overseas detention centres operated by the US military and the CIA as part of the United States’ war on terror, says a new report.

The participation of US military and intelligence agency medical personnel in these practices was “in clear conflict with established international and national professional principles and laws,” the report found. The report, Ethics Abandoned: Medical Professionalism and Detainee Abuse in the War on Terror, was prepared by a task force of physicians, lawyers, ethicists and human rights experts funded by the Institute on Medicine as a Profession (Columbia University in New York) and the Open Society Foundation. It was based on unclassified, publicly available information. 

The practices included designing, participating in, and enabling torture and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment of detainees, according to the report. Although the US Department of Defence has taken steps to address some of these practices in recent years, including instituting a committee to review medical ethics concerns at Guantanamo Bay Prison, the Task Force says the changed roles for health professionals and poor ethical standards adopted within the military remain in place.

Access the full report