The role of doctors in preventing torture

September 16, 2011

Last week, the new Medact report Preventing Torture: the role of physicians and their professional organisations: principles and practice was launched, accompanied with a Comment in The Lancet.

This report considers how professional medical bodies can more effectively work towards eliminating torture, both through the support they give their members, and in their response to medical complicity. In this report, Medact argues that “doctors and other professionals working with torture victims in difficult environments can make valuable contributions to training in the diagnosis of torture and this can be of benefit internationally.” However, physicians can come under great pressure during investigations, and consequently, “professional bodies could and should play a key supportive role when this happens.”

The report includes five case studies from the United States, Sri Lanka, the United Kingdom, Italy and Israel. It also includes recommendations for National Medical Associations and for the World Medical Association. “There is clear evidence that there is still much to be done both to protect medical professionals who expose torture, and to prevent medical complicity in it. This report is part of a ‘work in progress’ to address this unacceptable situation.”

Download the report (PDF)

Comment in The Lancet (PDF)