Red Cross: Gitmo doctors violated medical ethics

Medical professionals violated codes of medical ethics by participating in and assisting in ill-treatment of Guantánamo Bay detainees, says a report by the International Committee of the Red Cross, made public April 6. The report, which was written in 2007 based on interviews of fourteen detainees, alleges that doctors and psychologists in Guantánamo at times stopped waterboarding and other forms of ill-treatment, and at other times modified the severity of the treatment to allow it to continue.

The portion of the report on the role of medical professionals concludes:

any interrogation process that requires a health professional to either pronounce on the subject’s fitness to withstand such a procedure, or which requires a health professional to monitor the actual procedure, must have inherent health risks. As such, the interrogation process is contrary to international law and the participation of health personnel in such a process is contrary to international standards of medical ethics. In the case of the alleged participation of health personnel in the detention and interrogation of the fourteen detainees, their primary purpose appears to have been to serve the interrogation process, and not the patient. In so doing the health personnel have condoned and participated in ill- treatment.

Even though the intention of the medical professionals was to stop lasting damage, the report claims their actions should be considered a violation of medical ethics, which call for both the patients and the practitioners to be treated with dignity and respect. The report, news of which was leaked to the press in March, also deemed the tactics of the CIA to be torture.

This report is the latest incident in a long string of medical condemnations of Guantanamo Bay and the medical professionals working in it. In September 2007, doctors from 16 countries wrote a letter condemning the US military for its treatment of detainees, particularly the policy of force-feeding to counteract hunger strikes. A month earlier, a commentary published in the Journal of the American Medical Association asserted that force-feeding was a violation of medical ethics. In 2006, Saifullah Paracha, a Pakistani detainee, was not permitted to have his cardiac catheterization moved from Guantánamo Bay to a more extensive medical facility in the US or Pakistan. (Jurist, April 7)

See our last post on Guantánamo Bay.

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