A new report shows physicians and other medical professionals working for the CIA and U.S. military were directed to assist in the planning and infliction of torture in prisons such as Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib and other secret “black sites” around the world.
The report, “Ethics Abandoned: Medical Professionalism and Detainee Abuse in the War on Terror,” was conducted by the Institute on Medicine as a Profession and the Open Society Foundation. Employees of the CIA’s Office of Medical Services were expected to help assess potential harm torture techniques might cause, the report says. They “advised limits, such as stopping exposure to cold just at the point where hypothermia would likely set in,” told torturers to stop loud noises just before “permanent hearing loss would occur,” restricted the time allowance on the use of stress positions to 48 hours, and when it came to waterboarding, required that “resuscitation equipment and supplies for an emergency tracheotomy” be readily available.
The Task Force report addresses the role of medical personnel in force-feedings. It does not accept the Defense Department’s claim that force-feedings are undertaken to save lives. They have been “used commonly, not just in rare instances where a detainee’s life was threatened.” They have been explicitly used to break political protests. And, therefore, all force-feedings should be “prohibited.”
Finally, the report proposes that medical personnel be held accountable for their role in torture or inhumane treatment by further informing the public of the role of medical personnel in what has happened. There should be more “fact-finding and investigations” along with “stronger disciplinary action through state health professional licensing boards.”
It suggests that military and intelligence health professionals be subject to the same civilian disciplinary system as other health professionals because, no matter where they are working, all military and intelligence medical personnel are US physicians and psychologists.