Post Classifieds

Practices of CIA doctors are contrary to medical profession

By Jesseba Fernando
On April 10, 2014

A physician's sworn duty to "first, do no harm" becomes overshadowed by the duty one has towards their country by crossing both medical and ethical guidelines.
A report by the Senate Intelligence Committee has concluded that the CIA utilized brutal interrogation techniques for years by intentionally misguiding the public and the government.
The most shocking aspect of this discovery is the physicians and psychologists who facilitated this torture. The report shows the CIA doctors were involved in the process of monitoring the prisoners' baseline temperatures so they wouldn't suffer from hypothermia, in addition to designing and participating in "cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment and torture of detainees." The two-year review conducted by a 19-member task force shows that doctors and nurses were required to participate in force-feeding prisoners on hunger strike, which goes against the ethics of both the World Medical Association and the American Medical Association. They also breached patient confidentiality by sharing the prisoner's physical and psychological conditions with the interrogators, who in turn used this to the prisoner's disadvantage.
The justification behind their action was that they were not treating people who were ill so the medical ethics of "put the patients first" did not apply. While the Hippocratic oath has physicians swear to use "regimens which will benefit my patients according to [their] greatest ability and judgment," these practitioners have only exploited a person's mental and physical weaknesses.
Justice and judgment calls are not in the doctor's job description, nor should they be. As someone who has the power to help other people, using that ability for torture is cruel. A physician's loyalty should lie with their patient or the person whom they are treating not the country. Using them to inflict pain on others them no longer a physician, but a hired gun.
As IMAP president, David Rothman states, "Putting on a uniform does not and should not abrogate the fundamental principles of medical professionalism. "Do no harm" and "put the patient first" must apply to all physicians regardless of where they practice." The Institute on Medicine as a Profession (IMAP) aims to set a vision of professionalism that is promoted through research and policy initiatives.
At this point, it would seem fair to revoke these physicians' medical license. The revocation of their medical licenses isn't necessarily to punish the physicians, but rather to protect the public. Knowing that there are licensed professionals who documented the effects of "enhanced interrogation techniques" to create risks of drowning, hypothermia, aspiration pneumonia or laryngospasm, then to assure lawyers that "there was no medical reason to believe that waterboarding would lead to physical pain," is truly frightening.
Dr. Gerald Thomson, a professor of Medicine Emeritus at Columbia University and also a task force member, states, "It's clear that in the name of national security the military trumped that covenant, and physicians were transformed into agents of the military and performed acts that were contrary to medical ethics and practice. We have a responsibility to make sure this never happens again."
By abandoning the moral obligation to the Declaration of Geneva, a Physician's Oath adopted by the World Medical Association, the physicians have abandoned their right to be trusted with the lives of other human beings.  


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