USA: Ethical guidelines and practices for military medical professionals

March 23, 2015


A recommendation by the Pentagon’s independent health advisors states that medical personnel should be excused from duties that violate professional ethics. 

According to IFHHRO member Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), this expert advice to the U.S. Department of Defense supports the dismissal of disciplinary charges against a Navy nurse who refused to force-feed Guantánamo detainees and faces potential discharge.

“This endorsement to uphold medical ethics in all circumstances helps empower military doctors and nurses to reject unethical or  inhumane practices without fearing reprisal,” said Dr. Vincent Iacopino, PHR’s senior medical advisor. “The U.S. military should swiftly adopt the Defense Health Board’s recommendations and improve structures to support the ethical obligations of its health professionals. If current structures were adequate, the Navy nurse would not be facing possible discharge for refusing to force-feed on ethical grounds. In fact, there would be no force-feeding at Guantánamo at all. It’s contrary to medical ethics and condemned as ill-treatment by the American Medical Association.”

Update June 2015: the U.S. Navy decided not to discharge the Navy nurse who refused to force-feed Guantánamo detainees on professional ethical grounds.

Ethical Guidelines and Practices for U.S. Military Medical Professionals, Defense Health Board, 2015

Source and more information: Press release PHR